Monday, August 24, 2009

Is The FCIP Legal? - Social Security Corrupt Hiring Practices exposed



Now at last comes a decision that begins to peel away the veneer of legitimacy from the corrupt hiring practices of the Social Security Administration. Nepotism and cronyism have insinuated themselves into every aspect of Federal Hiring. My complaints to Congress go without action as what is endemic is viewed as right. See my prior posting at:

MSPB Agrees with NTEU Position on Veteran’s Standing to Challenge FCIP

Washington, D.C.—The continuing battle by the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) to end agency misuse of the Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP) has taken another step forward with a favorable procedural ruling by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

As sought by NTEU, the board reversed a decision by an administrative judge, ruling that a 30 percent disabled veteran has legal standing to challenge the use of the FCIP by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

NTEU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in this case, Weed v. SSA, arguing successfully that the plaintiff was injured by SSA’s use of a hiring strategy that effectively prevented him from even applying for an open position, and thus denied him his veteran’s preference rights. The MSPB sent the case back to the judge to allow for factual development on the question of the legality of the FCIP.

“This decision parallels NTEU’s recent win on jurisdictional issues in our pending lawsuit challenging Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regulations implementing the FCIP,” said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley. Last month, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed OPM’s jurisdictional and procedural objections to the NTEU suit filed in January 2007, allowing the union’s direct challenge to the FCIP to go forward.

“The MSPB decision should send a further signal to OPM that the legality of the FCIP is in serious question,” Kelley said.

The FCIP is a special-focus hiring program originally intended to provide formally-structured, two-year training and development internships for agencies to use as a strategic hiring tool. Instead, and because OPM placed few restrictions on the program, it has been used by a number of agencies to fill a wide range of positions—which, after a two-year ‘internship,’ are converted without competition to permanent competitive service status.

In addition to bypassing veteran’s preference rights, one of its most serious impacts is to reduce promotional opportunities for present members of the federal workforce. “The way agencies are misusing the FCIP,” President Kelley said, “all too often blocks the advancement path of employees who have proven themselves ready for promotion. It is a clear distortion of the program’s intent.”

The FCIP has been eagerly embraced by such agencies as the Internal Revenue Service, which is using it to hire key enforcement personnel including Revenue Officers and Revenue Agents; U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which has used it for some years as its sole means of hiring new CBP Officers; and SSA, which in fiscal 2008 used the FCIP for 62 percent of its new hires.

NTEU argues that such misuse of the FCIP undercuts key merit system principles, including the requirement for “fair and open competition” for jobs as a way to ensure equal opportunity.

In the Weed case, SSA advertised the availability of four positions—for which the plaintiff was qualified—on a state university web site accessible only to students and alumni; Weed was neither. All of the positions were filled using the FCIP. Weed, supported by NTEU’s brief arguing that the FCIP is not a valid exception to competitive hiring procedures, said the posting made it impossible for him, and similarly-situated veterans, to learn of the vacancies.

“The MSPB decision now allows Mr. Weed to get to the heart of the problem—that the ways agencies use the FCIP can all but eliminate fair and open competition from the applicant process and does real harm to veterans and others who would like to be fairly considered for open positions in the federal government,” President Kelley said.

No comments:

Post a Comment