Category Archives: Public Sector

Transportation Security Administration’s Efforts to Proactively Address Employee Concerns

Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of Inspector General, OIG 08-62, May 2008

The Transportation Security Administration reports that a stable, mature, and experienced workforce is the most effective tool it has to meet its mission. Despite the value placed on the workforce, employees have expressed their concerns about how the agency operates by historically filing formal complaints at rates higher than other federal agencies of comparable size.

Additionally, Transportation Security Administration employees at some airports have contacted the Congress, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, and the media to report their frustrations with local management’s lack of resolution of ongoing workplace problems. The Transportation Security Administration has taken proactive steps by establishing the Office of the Ombudsman, the Integrated Conflict Management System, and the National Advisory Council to help identify and address its employees’ workplace concerns. Our overall audit objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives. Despite the positive steps taken, the Transportation Security Administration could improve its initiatives by establishing more effective internal systems, processes, and controls. Specifically, the agency has not provided sufficient tools and guidance regarding the structures, authorities, and oversight responsibilities of each initiative, and has faced challenges in communicating the details of each to its workforce.

Low employee morale continues to be an issue at some airports, contributing to the Transportation Security Administration’s 17% voluntary attrition rate. More than half of the employees we interviewed described the agency’s efforts to educate them on the various initiatives available to address their workplace concerns as “inadequate.” Accordingly, we are making six recommendations to the Assistant Secretary of the Transportation Security Administration to provide employees with sufficient tools, including clear guidance and better communication, on the structures, authorities, and oversight responsibilities of the initiatives we reviewed. The agency fully or partly concurred with five of the recommendations and has taken action to resolve four, which will remain open until implementation is completed. The agency did not provide sufficient information on its actions reported for one recommendation and did not concur with another. As such, both recommendations remain open and unresolved.
See also:
The Transportation Security Administration’s National Deployment Force

The Best Retirement Plan Ever

Source: Christian Weller, Center for American Progress, July 10, 2008

How Public Sector Pension Plans Provide Adequate Retirement Savings in an Efficient and Sustainable Way

CAPAF’s Christian E. Weller testifies today to the Joint Economic Committee. Read the full testimony.

A recent poll conducted by Bankrate Inc. found that only about 3 in 10 workers expect to have enough money to retire comfortably. Nearly 7 in 10 Americans have set low expectations about their retirement prospects. And one in five Americans say they are afraid they will never be able to retire.

Costly Returns: How Corporations Could Profit From Inflating the Already High Cost of Repairing the Nation’s Crumbling Water and Sewer Infrastructure

Source: Food & Water Watch, June 2008

From the press release:
A future favorable to investor owned water utilities will result in higher rates, fewer consumer protections, a limited or non-existent federal safety net for low income communities and large infrastructure investments built to maximize profit, not the interest of the public, according to a Food & Water Watch analysis of investor briefs.

“Corporations have a financial incentive to oppose conservation, protection of drinking water sources and other policies and programs that would save money and help offset the economic burden on communities across the nation,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Wasted water drives up a company’s revenue, which flows from people’s water bills.”

In fact, the investor research firm believes that if “faulty underground infrastructure were to interrupt a major city’s water supply for an extended period,” the public would be less resistant to rate hikes that benefit corporations. The analysis also reveals U.S. states where regulators are especially friendly to private ownership or management of water: Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut, with a nod to California’s recent about face on strong consumer protections and shift toward encouraging privatization of water service.

Although public utilities provide water to about 86 percent of people on community water systems, a private sector push is on to change this. The report, Costly Returns: How Corporations Could Profit From Inflating the Already High Cost of Repairing the Nation’s Crumbling Water and Sewer Infrastructure, analyzed investor briefs by Boenning & Scattergood and reveals that, thanks to some fancy finance and accounting, private utilities tie higher earnings to increased costs.
Executive Summary

Benefit Cost Comparisons Between State and Local Governments and Private-Sector Employers

Source: Ken McDonnell, EBRI Notes, Vol. 29 no. 6, June 2008

Nature and work forces of public vs. private sector have major differences–
Major reasons for the differences in total compensation costs between state and local government employers and private-sector employers are the different composition of their respective work forces and the different nature of public- vs. private-sector work. State and local government jobs include education and public safety functions (teachers, police, and firefighters), which involve high levels of education, training, physical fitness, or risk) and largely do not exist in the private sector. Unionization rates also are higher in the public sector than in the private sector.

Compensation costs higher for state and local government due to work force characteristics–
Overall total compensation costs as of September of 2007 were 51.4 percent higher among state and local government employers ($39.50 per hour worked) than among private-sector employers ($26.09 per hour worked).

Health and retirement costs higher in the public sector to support better benefits–
State and local governments have sharply higher costs for health and retirement benefits than private-sector employers, since their workers participate in these benefits at far higher rates and public-sector workers are far more likely to have defined benefit (pension) retirement benefits than are private-sector workers.

Blurring the Line Between Public and Private Sectors: The Case of Police Officers’ Off-duty Employment

Source: James R. Brunet, Public Personnel Management, Vol. 37, no. 2, Summer 2008
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While much recent attention has been given to the outsourcing of government services, little is known about the opposite situation in which private organizations retain the services of public workers. Such is the case when off-duty municipal police officers work for private concerns. Police officers have specialized training and law enforcement authority, two commodities in high demand in the private labor market. This analysis seeks to answer three questions about this largely unexplored personnel practice: (1) How much off-duty work is being undertaken? (2) How do departments administer the practice? And (3) What issues and/or conflicts emerge from this blending of public and private spheres. Data were collected through interviews with representatives from the 18 largest police departments in North Carolina and through a review of off-duty policies. The article concludes with suggestions fro maximizing the public benefits that accrue when police officers work for private entities.

A Tower of Tiers

Source: Jonathan Walters, Governing, May 2008

Pensions are getting less generous for a new generation of government workers. Will they tolerate equal work for unequal benefits?

Starting next July, public employees hired in the state of Kansas will be second-class citizens, in a way. They will have to pay more into the employees’ retirement fund than workers who came on board before them do. They’ll have to clock more years on the job in order to collect their pension. And when they do go on to retire, the new group of workers is set to receive less generous payouts than their brethren hired before July 1, 2009.

It’s not for spite that the future hires are getting a lesser deal. The reason is more straightforward than that. The Kansas pension system is $5.4 billion short of full actuarial health. By lumping the next generation of workers into a second “tier,” Kansas expects to take considerable pressure off the pension fund’s long-term finances. What’s more, since the workers getting nicked haven’t even accepted the job yet, there was no natural constituency to oppose the plan in the legislature.

The notion of dinging future hires in the name of pension health is nothing new — New York State began tiering its employees back in the early 1970s. But with retirees living longer, the stock market in flux and state and local budgets getting tighter, a growing number of states are tiering in the name of maintaining their pension funds. Just in the past three years, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Texas have acted to create new classes of employees. For anyone about to go into government work in those states, retirement may be a little further out , and a little less sweet, than for those who toiled before them.

As Kansas found, tiering can make for an elegant political fix. That’s particularly true because state law in Kansas, as in many states, prohibits taking away benefits promised to existing employees. There’s evidence, however, that bifurcating pension benefits simply pushes pension conflict down the road. As the second tier’s ranks swell and gain in political power, those employees inevitably agitate to win back what they lost before starting to work.

Public Pension Investment Practices

Source: M. Corinne Larson, Government Finance Review, Volume 24, no. 1, February 2008

From the abstract:
A recent survey on public pension investment practices shows that many of the plans have active, sophisticated investment programs in place, and the trend is toward expanding the types of investments made. Therefore, finance officers involved with pension investing will need to understand increasingly sophisticated money management techniques.

Top Public Sector Innovators: Changing the world through Government, Education, Healthcare and Life Sciences

Source: IBM, January 2008

In this publication you will find dozens of short, real-life stories of challenges met–and transcended–through fresh thinking and the creative application of state-of-the-art information technology (IT).

We’ve grouped these stories by the three main segments of the public sector, but urge you to browse outside your own industry to see if there are any new, “outside the box” ideas that may be useful for your organization.

Collection of Human Capital Practices

Source: Chief Human Capital Officers Council

The Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council is pleased to provide its first Collection of Human Capital Practices for the Federal human resource community.

Over the past several years, through the President’s Management Agenda, Federal agencies have made significant improvements in their strategic human capital procedures. As agencies continue to improve their human capital practices, it is critical to share those successes so others may learn from them. The most effective way to collect and showcase agency human capital practices is through the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) Council. Now entering its fifth year, the CHCO Council is the natural catalyst for identifying, compiling, and sharing human capital strategies within the Federal Government.

This document contains several human capital strategies from a number of agencies on topics including performance management, learning and development, closing competency gaps, and telework. Each individual synopsis was submitted by the agency implementing the highlighted strategy. We identified the agency practices through such means as the 2006 Federal Human Capital Survey, our CHCO Council Training Academy sessions, and the Council’s subcommittees.

Full report (PDF; 8.3 MB)

Facing the Future: Retirements, second careers to reshape state and local governments in the post-Katrina era

Source: Center for State and Local Government Excellence, March 2008

From the summary:
A new Center for Excellence poll finds that most Americans are unaware that state and local public health departments are facing a serious shortage of skilled professionals that could put the health and lives of citizens at risk.

See also:
Fact Sheet: The Impending Shortage in the State and Local Public Health Workforce