OPM to search for bogus credentials

The Office of Personnel Management said Monday it is planning to train federal personnel employees to spot bogus academic credentials — a move that comes in the wake of the controversy surrounding deputy chief information officer Laura Callahan.

Although the office declined to say their latest personnel move was connected to the Callahan case, a senior OPM official said the action was intended to make sure there are "suitable people working in government jobs" who meet the criteria for employment.

The official, who declined to be identified by name, said OPM Director Kay Cole James sent a memo to federal agencies on July 10 announcing a series of training sessions that will offer instructions for spotting phony academic credentials.

"By training agencies how to spot bogus educational credentials earlier in the process, we can make the hiring process more effective and efficient," James said in a statement.

"It is my goal to ensure that those hired to work for the federal government are of the highest integrity," she added.

The latest OPM action follows the disclosure that Laura Callahan, former deputy CIO at the Labor Department and deputy CIO at the Homeland Security Department, received her high-education credentials from a so-called "diploma mill."

Callahan is on paid administrative leave while officials are investigating her background. Her case revealed flaws in the personnel-hiring and background-checking systems.

The OPM official, who spoke to reporters on a conference call, said employees involved in conducting background checks would be trained to know the difference between e-learning institutions and bogus degree-granting ones.

James' memo also asked agency personnel officials to make sure OPM knows about the outcome of a background check.

"It's part of our responsibility" to notify an agency if a bogus diploma mill is identified, according to the official. It then becomes a matter of the agency deciding, "Did the person in any way falsify or mislead the agency," he said.

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