Federal Manager's Daily Report

The VA continues to have issues with the accuracy of its counts of employees on board and vacant positions, the IG there has said in the latest of a series of reports dating to 2015 reaching similar conclusions.

Vacancy rates at the VA—mostly in the medical fields and mostly attributed to non-competitive salaries vs. other employers—have been a long-standing concern of congressional leaders on veterans issues, resulting in a series of changes to law requiring regular accounting and reporting.

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A report said that while the VA has continued to make progress over that time, the underlying problem is that it relies on “multiple disparate systems that resulted in inconsistencies and poor data quality across the VA enterprise” in accounting for its employees. In 2016, the VA launched a department-wide system called HR Smart but despite efforts to ensure that data in the system is accurate, “VA has been transparent and acknowledged that data quality concerns remain.”

It said for example that at one facility, HR Smart reported nearly 3,200 full-time equivalent positions while the facility itself reported just above 2,600, a difference of about 21 percent. In contrast, at another facility HR Smart reported about 1,700 while the facility counted more than 2,200, a difference of about 24 percent in the opposite direction.

Further, when attempting to reconcile data the Veterans Health Administration—which accounts for the large majority of VA employees—has relied on a decentralized approach that “introduced variability in the process and did not allow for the consistent creation, maintenance, and verification of position information.”

The IG said management agreed with its recommendations to implement an enterprise-wide plan to examine and validate the position inventory data in HR Smart; establish standard guidance to ensure positions are consistently approved, created, and maintained; and monitor position management on a regular basis and ensure the HR Smart position inventory is properly maintained.

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