Defense Department to Hire up to 300 Auditors

In an effort to gain a clean audit opinion by 2007 and to comply with the 1990 Chief Financial Officers Act, the Defense Department will take advantage of a rarely used direct-hire authority to immediately bring 300 experienced auditors on board over the next few years.

The authority was approved Monday by the Office of Personnel Management, and allows the DoD to hire auditors at grade levels 11 through 15 for the Office of the Deputy Inspector General for Auditing, Government Executive reported.

The direct hire authority allows agencies to hire qualified candidates without the long drawn out process for which the federal government is known and must be approved by OPM. To gain approval, the agency must demonstrate a severe shortage of candidates or a "critical need" to quickly fill positions.

As DoD works to achieve a clean audit opinion by fiscal year 2007, it must comply with the CFO Act, which states that "each financial statement prepared ... shall be audited in accordance with applicable generally accepted government auditing standards," according to Ronald Sanders, associate director of human resources policy at OPM. The department's need for the authority to comply with a law "met the statutory and regulatory definition of critical need," Sanders told Government Executive.

DoD seeks seasoned auditors who can help the agency to meet its ambitious goal of a clean audit opinion. DoD’s inability to achieve a clean audit opinion is viewed by many to be the largest stumbling block to the federal government’s effort to achieve a governmentwide clean opinion.

"These are not entry-level auditing jobs, so you can't go to a college campus and recruit," Sanders told Government Executive. "So they're going to be going head to head against many of the major accounting firms."

A spokesman for the Defense IG said the same thing. "The knowledge and experience needed by senior level personnel to manage audits of complex financial statements and a network of integrated systems can only be acquired through extensive specialized experience," the spokesman said.

OPM Director Kay Coles James said the Pentagon's use of the authority "is exactly what Congress intended when it authorized OPM to grant direct-hire authority."

OPM occasionally will review the department's need for the authority as well as ensure it is being used properly. The authority expires on June 30, 2006. If Defense officials anticipate a continued need, they must resubmit their request and justify the need for an extension, Government Executive reported.

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