Agencies flunk telework test

GAO report: "Human Capital: Further Guidance, Assistance, and Coordination Can Improve Federal Telework Efforts"

Even the two agencies that are supposed to lead the federal government’s telecommuting efforts have not taken all the steps needed for successful telework programs for their own employees, the General Accounting Office said.

In its July 18 report, made public this week, the congressional watchdog agency listed 25 "key telework practices" and determined that the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration — the two lead agencies — failed to implement all of them.

GSA has not taken any steps to implement seven of the practices, and OPM has not taken steps to implement three, the report says. Both agencies disagreed with GAO's findings.

GAO also examined telecommuting at the departments of Education and Veterans Affairs. It gave Education the highest implementation score of the four agencies and the VA the lowest.

Only Education has established a telework pilot program, GAO says, and none of the four agencies has measurable goals for telecommuting. On the other hand, all provide technical support for teleworkers and have addressed the associated access and security issues.

The report to Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) was the latest effort to prod federal agencies to permit and encourage more telecommuting. Over the years, a series of reports by various authorities has concluded that agencies resist having employees work off-site.

This week's GAO report finds some inconsistencies in the way OPM and GSA work together to promote telecommuting, and says there has been friction between the two in the past. GAO recommends that the agencies better coordinate their efforts.

"It is clear we all agree on the importance of telework and encouraging its usage in the federal government," OPM Director Kay Coles James and GSA Administrator Stephen A. Perry said in a joint response to the auditors. "We assure you we will continue to champion telework, a key human capital flexibility, and do everything possible to facilitate its acceptance and use."

Their letter says OPM will offer a free e-training telework course for federal managers and employees on its training site, www.golearn.gov. The personnel agency says it will step up its outreach work with other agencies' human resources offices.

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