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HHS Use of Special Hiring and Pay Authority Jumps 25 Percent in Five Years

Sep 14, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Government Accountability Office testified before the Health Subcommittee today to discuss the Department and Health and Human Services’ and EPA’s use of "Title 42" to hire specialists. Under Title 42 of the Public Health Service Act, HHS has appointed specialists who are subsequently paid above the typical pay limit for federal employees. The program was established for limited use to encourage extraordinarily well-qualified individuals to help HHS meet critical mission needs, but its use has grown exponentially in recent years. The committee is concerned with potential abuse of the Title 42 salary guidelines.

The committee recognizes that compensating individuals with private sector pay is sometimes necessary to recruit the best and brightest minds, especially in the field of science. However, GAO recently found that HHS’ use of Title 42 has grown 25 percent in five years. Meanwhile, EPA has used it to appoint 17 employees despite the fact that it was not conceived of for use by that agency.

According to GAO, 1,461 HHS Title 42 employees and 15 out of 17 Title 42 EPA employees earn more than $155,500.

In addition, the report highlighted that HHS does not have reliable data to manage and provide proper oversight. GAO explains, "Effective monitoring of the use of Title 42 is particularly important in light of HHS’s increasing use of the authority and the number of employees earning salaries higher than most federal employees."

Rep. Joe Barton’s legislation, the HHS Employee Compensation Reform Act of 2012, would make commonsense changes that are necessary to limit the use of Title 42 authority at HHS and implement congressional oversight.

Rep. Barton’s bill continues to ensure HHS can hire and retain highly skilled workers while also ensuring taxpayer dollars are used wisely.