GAO is reviewing feds' credentials

The General Accounting Office is doing an extensive review of the credentials of senior-level government officials at a half-dozen agencies. The audit is the result of a congressional request that GAO examine the use of academic credentials from unaccredited schools by federal employees and job applicants.

The inquiry was triggered by reports that Laura Callahan, a senior director in the CIO's office at the Homeland Security Department, had three degrees, including a doctorate, from an unaccredited organization in Wyoming that required little or no course work. Callahan was placed on administrative leave in early June while DHS officials investigated the reports.

The department's investigation is continuing, but several sources have said her security clearance was revoked. DHS officials did not return reporters' phone calls asking about Callahan's status at the department.

GAO is reviewing officials at the GS-15 level and above, officials familiar with the audit said. Among the agencies whose employees' credentials are being examined are DHS, the Office of Personnel Management, and the departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and Transportation, the officials said.

Legal loophole

In July, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, asked OPM to close a legal loophole that appears to let federal employees use government funds to pay for academic coursework from unaccredited schools. Collins and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, jointly asked GAO to undertake the audit.

Meanwhile, OPM last week hosted two half-day seminars for federal human resources and personnel security managers on how to verify education credentials.

Employees from more than 100 agencies registered to attend the sessions. An OPM spokesman said about 500 people attended the seminars, and that some people had to be turned away at the door because there wasn't enough space.

One attendee who asked that his name not be used said the buzz at the session he attended was about the GAO investigation. 'The shop talk was that GAO is investigating six federal agencies ... to do a rather complete degree audit, and there was a fair amount of worrying about that,' he said.

Officials at GAO would not comment because the audit is ongoing.


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