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Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the results of an audit report of the National Science Foundation's (NSF) use of "temporary term" employees, known as "rotators." The use of rotators is authorized under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA).
"Congress requested that OPM conduct this review because of our governmentwide leadership role for strategic human capital management, as well as our having the expertise necessary to assess how NSF uses IPA assignments in the context of mission accomplishment," said OPM Director Kay Coles James. "We will work closely as a supportive team member to help the NSF with its ongoing human capital assessment, and we will closely monitor the implementation of the OPM recommendations designed to strengthen the NSF."
The audit report focuses primarily on NSF's use of IPAs. The IPA program allows for temporary assignment of skilled personnel between the federal government and non-federal entities, including state and local governments, institutions of higher education, Indian tribal governments and other eligible organizations.
OPM's audit report examines the percentage of the NSF professional workforce staffed by IPA assignments and the impact of those appointments on the career civil service at NSF, the use of IPA assignments to staff the most senior positions at NSF, including the heads of its science directorates, and the level of compensation paid to individuals who fill senior staff positions with IPA assignments.
OPM looked at key data regarding all current IPA rotators at NSF and, based on these indicators, conducted a complete audit of all personnel transactions related to nearly 40 percent of the IPAs. OPM also reviewed other data sources such as OPM's IPA database and legal authorities, and supplemented this data review with interviews of NSF executives, managers, and professional staff.
In summary, the audit report states that "IPA assignments at NSF are high profile and valued within the scientific and engineering communities. When NSF looks to universities and research centers, it is able to recruit diverse quality candidates with a wide variety of academic and professional backgrounds and demonstrated leadership skills...[NSF] uses [IPA assignees] as conduits to the scientific and engineering research community and as competent employees that can manage NSF's workforce."
Key findings from the audit include:
The Intergovernmental Personnel Act authorizes agencies to reimburse IPA assignees' home institutions for their full salary, fringe benefits, and travel and relocation expenses. A small percentage of NSF's IPA assignees are compensated at a level that exceeds the SES salary cap. When NSF uses the IPA authority's compensation flexibilities to recruit top level scientific and engineering talent, the OPM report encourages NSF to also use available non-IPA compensation flexibilities in those instances where it chooses to fill a senior management position with a career civil service candidate.
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.