Thursday, December 30, 1999

Hawaii State Seal

State urged to revisit
use of temporary hires

By Pat Omandam


The state Department of Human Resources Development needs to closely examine problems related to the use of temporary and emergency hires, and its impact on the civil service merit system, according to state Auditor Marian Higa.

In an audit released yesterday, Higa said temporary appointments -- used to temporarily fill job vacancies to ensure essential public business continues -- can have a negative effect on a state agency's recruitment, retention and productivity because there is no job security.

As a result, temporary appointments are not always popular with job seekers. And, Higa said, keeping people on for the entire length of an appointment, which could be up to a year, can be difficult because people frequently use the job as an interim step to a permanent position.

"The continual departure of temporary staff for permanent positions places heavy burdens on a program," Higa said in a 41-page report.

"In some instances, supervisors and other staff must set aside their normal duties and take over the departed employee's work until someone can be hired."

Higa recommended that the Human Resources Development Department monitor and report on state agencies' use of temporary and emergency appointments more effectively.

She also said the state's use of emergency appointments -- used to fill positions temporarily as a last resort to prevent stoppage of essential public services -- is sometimes questionable.

In some instances, people served in such appointments for lengthy periods of times, she said. In others, a person is selected for a succession of emergency appointments, becoming a sort of "career emergency hire," she said.

"Both situations -- repeated extensions and multiple appointments -- raise questions as to whether emergency appointments are being used appropriately," Higa said.

In his response, Human Resources Development Director Mike McCartney said he generally agrees with the findings, but added there are other factors that may help explain the use of temporary and emergency staffing.

For example, he said, Hawaii's depressed economy since the early 1990s has had an impact on programs in all departments and their ability to fill vacancies on a permanent basis.

McCartney said it is the responsibility of each agency to closely monitor their temporary and emergency staffing since they are the ones providing the public service.

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