Lieberman Says Federal Efforts to Ensure Diversity Must Improve

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., says the federal government’s efforts to encourage diversity in the federal workforce must improve, based on a new report out by the Government Accountability Office.

The GAO report found that the two agencies most responsible for ensuring equal employment opportunity for government workers still maintain overlapping requirements and redundant reporting systems, despite a 2005 White House order for better coordination.

The two agencies – the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – acknowledged in response to the survey that they could strengthen their collaborative efforts. But OPM said better coordination need not be institutionalized.

“Diversity in the workplace – whether governmental or private sector – serves all employees, clients, and constituencies,” Lieberman said. “I am disappointed that the two federal agencies most responsible for ensuring equal employment opportunities for federal workers have provided as little help as they have – despite a previous warning.”

According to the GAO survey of equal employment opportunity and human capital officials at 45 federal agencies, 56 percent who had some interaction with EEOC said the agency was only of some, little, or no help ensuring equal employment in the workplace or achieving workforce diversity objectives. When asked the same question about OPM, 80 percent of respondents who had at least some interaction with OPM said that agency had been of some, little, or no help.

The report found that over 80 percent of respondents said more coordination between the two agencies would be helpful. Some agency officials said that the lack of coordination resulted in added requirements on them and detracted from the efficiency of their own work. The report found little evidence of coordination in developing policy, providing guidance, and exercising oversight of federal agencies.

“When conducting oversight, EEOC and OPM officials should routinely review reports that the other agency receives from federal agencies,” Lieberman said. “But, incredibly, they don’t. Furthermore, the GAO tells us OPM and EEOC officials conducting on-site reviews at agencies don’t coordinate with each other.

“This lack of coordination is contrary to government policy, good management practice, and common sense. In fact, it represents a lost opportunity for consistent and effective EEO policy making and oversight.”

The survey followed a GAO review of EEO practices issued in April 2005, which led the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to order EEOC and OPM to work together to improve coordination and eliminate redundancies.

The GAO report recommends that EEOC and OPM:

· Develop a means to communicate and coordinate on a continuing basis in carrying out their responsibilities under the federal workplace EEO framework;

· Explore opportunities to consolidate and streamline like requirements within the framework, including reporting requirements, and to resolve policy inconsistencies and disagreements;

· Determine from agency EEO and human capital managers what additional guidance they need, how feedback can be more useful, and what more they can do to help agencies provide workplaces that are fair, equitable, and inclusive.