Agencies Balk at OPM's Rising Prices for Background Investigations

March 28, 2012

The fees that the Office of Personnel Management charge to other agencies to conduct employee background investigations is ballooning, and some agencies appear to have had enough.

The average cost per investigation — including a growing number of "add-on items" such as special interviews — rose from about $521 in 2005 to $882 in 2011, according to figures in a Government Accountability Office report released Wednesday.

As a result, agencies are increasingly looking at avoiding OPM when doing background checks, the GAO said.

At the Department of Homeland Security, for example, officials said there is "a significantly lower cost'' for top secret security clearance investigations when dealing directly with contractors. Officials at other agencies that are authorized to do their own investigations told GAO that they can save as much as $1,500 on the price of a top secret clearance inquiry by using a contractor instead of going through OPM. 

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