Oversight

GAO wants better payroll data from OPM

Shutterstock image: underlying data. 

The Office of Personnel Management needs to make its payroll and workforce data more reliable and more available for use by other agencies, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

The Enterprise Human Resources Integration system is OPM's primary database to support the human capital management of other agencies, including providing agencies with accurate information to make staffing decisions.  The system's data is "intended to provide a centralized, standardized and comprehensive source of pay and leave related data across the federal government," according to the report.

OPM cleans and shares data on retirements and hiring for use online by other agencies. However, OPM does not do this for payroll data, which includes detailed information on pay, incentives, overtime, leave and telework activities, and the data is not easily accessible to other agencies and therefore goes largely unused.

Auditors noted that using and sharing data would support openness and agency accountability, could detect when improper or inaccurate payments are made and could facilitate data-driven decision-making.

Additionally, auditors suggested that sharing the payroll data with other agencies will improve its completeness, accuracy and reliability issues, which have been "often identified during use of the [payroll] data." Issues include duplicative, inaccurate and altogether missing data.

Auditors concluded, while the EHRI data may be adequate for certain types of workforce analytics, the system's database is too limited and includes duplicative or inaccurate information.

This is not the first time the EHRI system has come under GAO scrutiny for having limited or inaccurate data. During an investigation of the movement of political appointees to civil service jobs – dubbed  "burrowing in" by critics -- auditors found that the database did not effectively identify all instances of such change in status, and recommended OPM work with other agencies to verify EHRI information.

GAO recommended for OPM to make the payroll data more publicly available, to improve data quality through better documentation and editing, to evaluate existing and develop new internal controls and to develop an implementation plan to address database weaknesses.

OPM concurred with the recommendations.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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