Actions Needed To Enhance the Credibility of Senior Executive Service Performance Award Programs

Gao ID: FPCD-81-65 September 30, 1981

GAO reviewed the Senior Executive Service (SES) performance and rank awards paid as of June 1981. The objectives of the review were to: (1) gather statistical data on performance and rank awards to determine if agencies were in compliance with the law and with the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) guidance, (2) assess the validity and effectiveness of methods and criteria that agencies use in making award payments, (3) examine the composition and functioning of agencies' performance review boards, and (4) identify any changes that may be necessary to enhance the award process.

The agencies reviewed generally appeared to be making reasonable efforts to administer and refine workable performance award systems. Congress, senior executives, and the press have criticized the administration of SES awards. One of the major criticisms has been that upper level executives have received a disproportionately large share of awards. A related criticism has been that factors other than performance have been used to determine performance award recipients. Another criticism has been that the performance review board members, who review and make recommendations on ratings and performance awards, have granted themselves awards. Still another criticism has been that agencies consistently have granted the maximum number of allowable awards. In addition, GAO noted two other issues that needed attention: (1) the desirability of, and purpose served by, including reemployed annuitants in SES, thereby making them eligible for awards; and (2) the methods agencies use in determining the maximum allowable number of performance awards. If SES performance awards are to serve their intended purposes of rewarding outstanding performance and encouraging excellence and higher productivity, it is essential that they be viewed more favorably, particularly by the senior executives themselves. Therefore, GAO believed that the criticisms and issues needed to be addressed.


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