OIG: Some NCUA hiring practices warrant review; applicant qualifications should be checked prior to interview

The federal agency that regulates credit unions should review some of its hiring practices for compliance and also ensure that job applicants’ qualifications are verified prior to bringing such individuals in for interviews, according to a January report of the agency’s inspector general’s office.

This “self-initiated” review by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) covered the period of January 2019 through December 2020. It focused, the report stated, on whether the NCUA’s hiring practices were in accordance with Office of Personnel Management (OPM), NCUA, and other federal requirements and whether its hiring processes facilitated the efficient selection of high-quality candidates to help NCUA divisions and offices meet mission requirements.

The OIG concluded that the agency’s hiring practices substantially complied with applicable requirements and that its hiring process facilitated the efficient selection of candidates. However, it said that some practices need review “to ensure full compliance” and that the NCUA should validate referred candidates’ qualifications prior to conducting interviews to improve the efficiency of the hiring process.

As to hiring practices, the OIG said it did not find full compliance requirements for timely notice to candidates on the status of their applications; and that not all case files included sufficient records to allow reconstruction of each merit promotion action from the request for personnel action to final selection (or non-selection) documents.

Regarding the verification of applicants’ qualifications, the report detailed the process for hiring an agency general counsel where missteps resulted in about an 18-month span from beginning to end.

The report states that in a process that began in June 2019, the NCUA did not validate the qualifications of General Counsel candidates a recruiting firm had referred to the agency before the Executive Resources Board and the NCUA Board conducted interviews of the candidates. “As a result, NCUA’s executive leadership interviewed a candidate who did not qualify for the SSP-02 level, which prompted a former Board member participating in the interview process to call into question the qualifications and experience of several other candidates,” it states.

The OIG said this occurred because OHR personnel did not request SF-50 documentation from the candidates early in the hiring process. Ultimately, it said in its report, this and other contributing factors resulted in the agency not selecting a candidate to fill the General Counsel position until January 2021.

The OIG made one recommendation and one suggestion for agency management, which agreed with both. The OIG recommended that NCUA management:

Review and adjust as necessary its current practices that are meant to ensure that the NCUA fully complies with regulations, policies, and procedures governing its hiring practices, specifically that:

  • candidates receive timely notification of the status of their applications,
  • required documentation, such as the job analysis and NCUA qualification statement, are included in USA Staffing case files, and
  • when contracting with a recruiting firm, all required language is included in the contract with the firm.

The OIG’s suggestion was that when using a recruiting firm to assist in efforts to fill vacancies, management ensure that Office of Human Resources personnel validate referred candidates’ qualifications prior to the Executive Resources Board and the NCUA Board reviewing assessments and conducting interviews of the candidates.

Audit of the NCUA’s Hiring Practices (Report #OIG-22-01 01/12/2022)