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News Release

Monday, September 08, 2003
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director James Highlights HUD Corrective Actions Following OPM Audit of DEU Processes

Affected Veterans Offered Jobs; OPM and HUD Partner to Prevent Future Errors

Washington, D.C. - Following a U.S. Office of Personnel Management merit system accountability audit of recent Department of Housing and Urban Development hiring activity, it has been discovered that errors resulted in five veterans not being hired for positions for which they are qualified. OPM worked with HUD to develop an immediate corrective action plan that has already been implemented.

OPM found that human error caused merit system hiring rules on veterans to be improperly applied.

OPM's audit of HUD also instructs the cabinet agency to make employment offers to the five veterans who were denied jobs as a result of the errors, or give them priority consideration for future "appropriate positions."

Said OPM Director Kay Coles James: "Increased flexibility in hiring processes and protection of Veterans' Preference are not mutually exclusive. OPM and HUD are committed to corrective actions, and Deputy Secretary Alphonso Jackson is taking aggressive action to fix the issues identified in the audit. The Administration's team is committed to Veterans' Preference and will make certain it is honored and upheld."

The errors, limited in scope, occurred in HUD's delegated examining unit (DEU) and resulted in five veterans being overlooked for jobs in the department or denied jobs for which they are qualified. DEUs evaluate an applicant's qualifications against specific job criteria and consider Veterans' Preference in the final ranking. OPM controls the DEU process and retains the authority to retract DEU authority delegated to agencies.

Demonstrating its commitment to the veterans' community and merit system principles, OPM has enthusiastically embraced HUD's offer to address examining unit issues and to immediately install safety nets to preclude future errors. At the time of the audit, HUD had already begun looking at examining-unit reforms.

The audit and corrective action plan specifically ask HUD's delegated examining unit to take systemic corrective action to preclude similar occurrences. In some cases, the audit notes, HUD simply failed to add Veterans' Preference points to an applicant's rating; other infractions had Veterans' Preference points being awarded to non-veterans, or veterans being overlooked for consideration entirely.

OPM Director James wrote to Deputy Secretary Jackson acknowledging the department's unqualified willingness to work with OPM to "correct the issues identified in the audit." She also conveyed her appreciation of the steps HUD had "already taken to improve" its delegated examining unit after the discovery of errors that denied jobs to veterans.

OPM will work closely with HUD over the next several months to make retroactive corrections and to improve the department's future DEU operations. Some of the corrective measures include having:

  1. OPM audit all selections from DEU certificates from January 1, 2002, through the present
  2. OPM identify and audit certificates before job offers are made
  3. OPM and HUD assess the effectiveness of recently completed DEU recertification training of agency employees
  4. HUD and OPM identify and implement a delegated examining accountability system

In response to James' letter, Jackson accepted her calls to take systemic corrective action to preclude similar occurrences, acknowledged the value of the audit to improve the "efficiency and effectiveness" of the department's delegated examining unit and noted the five veterans have now been offered employment opportunities.

"We owe a great debt to the men and women who have served our nation in uniform," said Jackson, "and I pledge to make HUD an even more effective and welcome environment for our veterans."

As part of the agreement between the agencies, OPM officials will oversee and evaluate the work of HUD employees who perform the review of job applicants' qualifications. OPM's oversight will last for one year and make sure that HUD's hiring decisions comply with merit system principles.

The audit of the HUD's competitive examining program supports President Bush's Management Agenda, which seeks to review the tools agencies use to recruit a high-performing and diverse work force.

In April 2002, OPM uncovered violations of Veterans' Preference and merit system principles at the Department of Labor and directed the agency to give priority consideration to veterans for future jobs. Reviews of other agencies are also underway governmentwide.

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Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.

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