When Words Aren't Enough, Numbers Help Define OPM's Conflict of Interest

Tell the average person that intragovernmental funds transfers are the root of an institutional conflict-of-interest problem in Washington, D.C., and you'll probably evoke a quizzical look.

Tell that same person that more than $1.7 billion in taxpayer dollars is being wasted by a federal agency? They get it.

Numbers are simple, and numbers are key to revealing the problems and real harm caused by the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) fee-for-service side business. OPM's fee-for-service demands snatch taxpayer dollars from agency funds appropriated for programs and basic mission activities over to OPM for services related to hiring, human resources and software development and maintenance.

We've detailed some of the numbers surrounding these funds transfers -- which were not authorized by Congress -- in a
  • OPM's fee-for-service business accounts for 72 percent of its payroll.
  • Congressional appropriation to OPM averages about $262 million annually, far less than the $1.7 billion agency pay-outs provide.
  • OPM used the billions it has taken from agencies over the past few years to increase its spending on "talent services" from $413 million in 2008 to $1 billion in 2010.

This video, posted on YouTube last week, simplifies OPM's conflict of interest -- and it would seem to be a conflict of interest to force the very agencies you oversee to purchase your substandard "services" and inefficient "solutions" -- and visually represents the definition of government waste.

Here are a few numbers from the video, titled "Feeding the Beast: The Money Game and Conflict of Interest at the Office of Personnel Management":
  • 90 percent of OPM's annual operating budget is made up of the "services" it sells to other federal agencies.
  • Those services and products are priced more than 300 percent higher than similar offerings in the private sector, and cost 90 percent more to maintain.
  • OPM's fee-for-service business has grown 360 percent over the past 13 years.
  • The number of employees at OPM has risen by nearly 2,300 through the collection of these unappropriated funds -- tell that to the more than 14 million currently unemployed in this country.

The video also makes the point that at the time our government is looking to cut the budget deficit by eliminating or reducing necessary programs, why is Congress continuing to allow OPM to suck in taxpayer dollars to fund its growing bureaucracy and replicate the technology solutions offered by the private sector?

So take a look. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, what is a video worth?

It's priceless.

Linda E. Brooks Rix is co-CEO of Avue Technologies, a public sector human capital management solutions platform provider headquartered in Tacoma, Wash., and offices in Washington, D.C. Avue's flagship solution, Avue Digital Services® has been a Level 4, fully hosted solution that has been in production since 2001 with a 99-plus percent uptime.