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Auditor General Jack Wagner's Audit Finds Serious Weaknesses In State Civil Service Commission's Veterans' Preference Program
25 state agencies filled 569 jobs without considering eligible military veterans
HARRISBURG (Nov. 19, 2008) – Auditor General Jack Wagner said today that a special performance audit found that, because of inadequate policies and oversight by the State Civil Service Commission, 25 state agencies filled at least 569 civil service employment positions without considering eligible veterans seeking employment, even though the agencies requested employment lists that included these veterans with test scores among the top three highest-scoring job candidates.
Wagner recommended that the State Civil Service Commission modify its policies and procedures to improve its support and oversight of the Veterans’ Preference Program, to make sure that all veterans receive the employment opportunities they have legally earned through military service.
“Our military veterans put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms,” said Wagner, a Vietnam combat veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps. “By their service and sacrifice, these brave men and women have demonstrated personal and professional qualities that any employer should value.”
However, citing a study compiled by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Wagner noted that 18 percent of the returning service members are unemployed – nearly three times the national average of 6.5 percent -- and 25 percent of employed veterans earn less than $21,840 a year.
“There is no reason why military veterans are not receiving the employment opportunities that they have earned and that state law requires the Civil Service Commission to recognize,” Wagner said.
Authority for the Veterans’ Preference Program in Pennsylvania is provided by the Military Affairs Act of 1975 and the Pennsylvania Civil Service Law. The program provides that veterans who pass the exam receive 10 additional points on their civil service exam scores and have mandatory hiring preference for civil service employment positions, if the veteran has one of the three highest exam scores for the position being considered. The State Civil Service Commission receives an annual state appropriation for its program operations, in addition to revenues from client agencies.
Wagner initiated his audit after receiving a complaint from a veteran, which alleged that the commonwealth had not been applying veterans’ preference in its employment decisions or had been applying the preference in an unsatisfactory manner. The audit covered the period July 1, 2002 through June 30, 2006, and resulted in four findings and 19 recommendations.
Wagner’s auditors also found that veterans were overlooked by state agencies that failed to consider eligible veterans for 512 positions by opting not to generate employment lists that included veterans seeking employment with the commonwealth. In addition, veterans were denied a chance to secure at least 26 job positions that were not filled with veterans because state agencies requested multiple employment lists by varying only the county work location. The agencies subsequently made hires from an employment list that did not have a veteran within the top three highest scores, as required by the program, Wagner said.
The names of applicants who pass an exam and meet the minimum experience and training requirements for civil service employment positions are placed on employment lists that are used in filling civil service position openings. However, Wagner said, commission policy allows state agencies to fill vacancies for civil service jobs by largely using three types of employment lists, but that only one of these three lists included eligible veterans seeking employment with the commonwealth. As a result, state agencies were allowed to circumvent hiring veterans by utilizing lists that only contained current agency or inter-agency employees, instead of using a list that contained non-employees, including veterans, said Wagner.
Wagner’s audit also found that the State Civil Service Commission failed to apply the additional 10 points to qualified veterans’ test scores in a timely manner. During the fiscal year ended June 30, 2006, Wagner’s auditors identified 327 instances, ranging from one month to more than 12 months, in which significant delays between the date when veterans passed examinations and the date when veterans’ preference, including the 10 additional points, was updated in the commission’s computer tracking system. Wagner’s auditors found that if the additional 10 points had been included, as was required, 38 veterans, or 12 percent, should have been hired based on their qualifying test scores.
Wagner’s auditors also found record-keeping problems at the State Civil Service Commission. Specifically, the State Civil Service Commission was not able to locate 10 of the 52 sampled veterans’ preference service discharge forms that are used to establish a record of veterans’ preference for an applicant.
Wagner said that his auditors also found that violations occurred due to computer system weaknesses that allowed state agencies to hire applicants without the commission’s knowledge; a lack of written procedures for processing applications; a lack of supervisory review procedures for processing applications to ensure accurate and timely entry of data; an inadequate post-audit process to verify that agencies’ hiring practices were in compliance with laws and regulations; an inadequate employment list review process; and inadequate record-keeping.
“The State Civil Service Commission must tighten its oversight of this excellent program, as an instrument to aid in hiring qualified individuals to do the work Pennsylvania citizens count on every day,” Wagner said. “It is a disservice to all young men and women, having served their county, to then be faced with the disappointment of being passed over for employment while other applicants receive acceptance into the ranks of Pennsylvania’s Civil Service.”
Wagner recommended that the next appointee to the State Civil Service Commission be a military veteran. His audit made 19 additional recommendations to the commission to correct deficiencies, including:
A full copy of the audit, including the State Civil Service Commission’s response, is available at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.
Auditor General Jack Wagner is responsible for ensuring that all state money is spent legally and properly. He is the Commonwealth’s elected independent fiscal watchdog, conducting financial audits, performance audits and special investigations. The Department of the Auditor General conducts more than 5,000 audits per year. To learn more about the Department of the Auditor General, taxpayers are encouraged to visit the department’s Web site at www.auditorgen.state.pa.us.
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