The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) announced last week that it would seek to change its name to the Government Accountability Office and to ease personnel restrictions found in Title 5 of the U.S. Code.
The legislative branch watchdog agency performs audits and investigations at the behest of Congress and has gained new momentum under the leadership of Comptroller General of the United States David M. Walker, CPA, who proposed the new legislation. Walker, the seventh Comptroller General, is in the fifth year of a 15-year term and has been an outspoken advocate of a more efficient, accountable federal government. He has strongly endorsed personnel reforms to offset the predicted retirement of nearly one-third of the federal work force over the next decade.
Under the bill, GAO would gain permanent authority to provide early retirement and buyout packages to employees, authority it has now under a three-year temporary mandate, which expires Dec. 31. In the three-year period, 78 GAO workers have taken advantage of the early retirement opportunity, most all of them high-level employees. No buyouts have been offered during the temporary period, reported Government Executive, which obtained an internal memo from Walker, and no buyouts are planned right now.
Walker's legislation further seeks far-reaching authority for the agency to develop its own performance-based pay structure. Walker has advocated that Congress create a system whereby pay is more closely tied to performance throughout government.
"It seems clear that we need to fundamentally re-think our approach to federal pay and develop an approach that places a greater emphasis on a person's knowledge, skills, position and performance rather than the passage of time, the rate of inflation and their geographic location," Walker wrote in a recent letter to Government Executive.