Thompson: Report finds agencies failed to report vacancies and acting officials to Congress

WASHINGTON – Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Fred Thompson (R-TN) today released the findings of a General Accounting Office (GAO) report revealing that between 1998 and 2000, many federal agencies failed to notify Congress and the GAO of some vacancies, temporary appointments, and acting officials within their department, thereby violating portions of the 1998 Vacancies Reform Act.

“The Senate has a clearly stipulated constitutional role to play in the appointment of many federal officials. The 1998 law bolstered the advice and consent power of the Senate that had been circumvented by some departments over the years,” Thompson said. “One would have to wonder why an agency would continue to violate the Vacancies Act by failing to accurately report to Congress and GAO.”

At Senator Thompson?s request, GAO conducted an investigation into agencies? adherence to the law which created time limits for reporting vacancies and temporary appointments and established the exclusive means by which acting officers could serve in positions requiring Senate confirmation.

GAO found that:

    Nineteen percent of all vacancies and 24% of all acting officers had not been reported at all, and on average, notification that did occur was more than four weeks late, despite the statute?s requirement of immediate notice;

    While some agencies (the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and the Office of Management and Budget) reported all vacancies and all designation of acting officers, the Departments of Energy and Justice, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Peace Corps, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy reported half or fewer of their vacancies and acting officers; and

    The Acting Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services served longer than the 210 days that the Vacancies Reform Act permits an acting officer to serve.

The report noted that in 2001, the Counsel to President Bush sent a memorandum to the heads of federal executive departments and agencies providing guidance on compliance with the Vacancies Reform Act and implementing a more streamlined approach for reporting that GAO believes should increase compliance with the law.

Senator Thompson added, “I am encouraged that the current administration is going through the proper channels in filling vacancies, and I am hopeful that it will continue to work with Congress to make sure that the appropriate people, whether temporarily appointed or confirmed by the Senate, are exercising the power of these offices.”

Also at the request of Sen. Thompson, GAO is currently examining the implementation of another aspect of the Vacancies Act, specifically whether acting officers have met the eligibility requirements of the statute providing that only three categories of individuals are permitted to serve as acting officers.

The Vacancies Reform Act of 1998

Cross Border Fraud: Improving Transnational Law Enforcement Cooperation

June 14, 2001
June 15, 2001

9:30 a.m. – SD-342

The Subcommittee will examine the growing problem of cross-border fraud (e.g., transnational sales of real or purported lottery tickets, advance-fee-for-loan operations, and other scams) which poses a threat to all American consumers but disproportionately affects the elderly. The hearings will examine the nature and scope of cross-border fraud problems and the state of binational U.S.-Canadian law enforcement coordination, and will explore what steps can be taken to fight such crime in the future.

Witnesses will include representatives from the offices of State Attorneys General, the U. S. Postal Inspection Service, Canadian law enforcement agencies, and the Federal Trade Commission. A final witness list will be available in early June.