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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency	15-P-0184
Office of Inspector General
July 14, 2015
At a Glance
Why We Did This Review
This is a quick reaction report
that addresses hiring activities
by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) that
occurred after EPA employees
accepted payments of up to
$25,000 to separate from
federal employment. The Office
of Personnel Management
(OPM) gave the EPA authority
under the Voluntary Early
Retirement Authority (VERA,
or "early-out") and Voluntary
Separation Incentive Payment
(VSIP, or "buyout") programs
so that the agency could
downsize or restructure its
workforce. As a result, 479
employees voluntarily left in
2014, with the EPA paying
$11.9 million in VERA-VSIP
incentives. One condition of the
authority granted EPA is that
vacated positions cannot be
filled using the same or
substantially similar position
descriptions used for the
employees who left.
This report addresses the
following EPA goal or
cross-agency strategy:
 Embracing EPA as a high-
performing organization.
Quick Reaction Report: EPA Should
Ensure Positions Vacated Under Buyouts
Are Eiiminated or Properiy Filled
The EPA paid staff up to $25,000
each to voluntarily separate
from federal employment, but in
some cases replaced them
without modifying the positions.
The EPA needs to improve its
controls over this in light of the
currently planned rapid hiring of
more than 500 employees.
What We Found
Two of four EPA organizations we reviewed
correctly used the authority granted by OPM
for the VERA-VSIP programs by either
eliminating vacated positions or filling them
using different position descriptions.
However, the Office of Environmental
Information (OEI) filled one of nine vacated
positions using the same position
description, and Region 8 filled seven of 31
vacated positions using the same position
description. EPA paid a total of $200,000 in buyouts to employees vacating these
eight positions. Senior managers from these organizations were aware they
should not hire employees under position descriptions of separated employees.
An OEI Director said OEI used the same position description because it needed
continuity due to the loss of managers. In Region 8, an official said he used the
same position description because of time constraints, and the manager of an
office expressed the belief that the limitations did not apply to all of the vacated
OPM gave EPA program and regional offices authority to offer early-outs and
buyouts to eliminate or restructure positions. This can achieve cost savings or
mission improvements even if re-hiring occurs in restructured positions. However,
by paying some employees under VSIP to leave federal service only to fill those
same positions without changing them, the EPA lost an opportunity to reduce
costs or improve mission work.
In May 2015, the EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Administration and
Resources Management announced plans to hire more than 500 employees by
September 30, 2015. During this effort, the EPA must ensure it does not
improperly fill positions vacated through early-outs or buyouts. We alerted EPA
officials to the issue in this report and met with them on June 11, 2015.
Send all inquiries to our public
affairs office at (202) 566-2391
or visit www.epa.gov/oiq.
The full report is at:
Recommendation and Planned Agency Corrective Actions
We recommend that the EPA implement controls to prevent positions vacated
under VERA-VSIP from being filled using the same position description. The
agency agreed with our recommendation and plans to complete corrective
actions by July 31, 2015. We agree with these corrective actions and consider
the recommendation resolved.