Click here to skip navigation
An official website of the United States Government.
Skip Navigation

In This Section

Hiring Authorities Intergovernment Personnel Act

 

Overview

The Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program provides for the temporary assignment of personnel between the Federal Government and state and local governments, colleges and universities, Indian tribal governments, federally funded research and development centers, and other eligible organizations.

Recruitment and Hiring Policy "Myth Busters."

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) encourages agencies to re-think the following myths and mis-perceptions:

  1. Myth: IPAs are a popular and a widely used flexibility.

    Truth: Agencies do not take full advantage of the IPA program which, if used strategically, can help agencies meet their needs for "hard-to-fill" positions such as Information Technology and Nurses.

  2. Myth: IPAs are cumbersome to use and require OPM approval.

    Truth: Agencies do not need OPM approval to make assignments under the IPA authority. Federal agencies interested in using the authority simply enter into a written agreement.

  3. Myth: IPAs are expensive to use.

    Truth: Agencies may enter into IPA assignments on a reimbursable or non-reimbursable basis. This means they may be cost-neutral to Federal agencies. Whether an IPA assignment is reimbursable is determined by the agency and non-Federal entity involved in the assignment.

  4. Myth: An agency may only enter into an IPA agreement with a State Government entity.

    Truth: An agency may enter into an IPA agreement with State and local governments, institutions of higher education, and Indian tribal governments.

  5. Myth: Agencies receive no recruitment benefit from sending employees on IPA assignments.

    Truth: Federal employees serving in IPA assignments can serve as both recruiters and ambassadors for positions in your agency. For example, Federal nurses sent to colleges and universities as teachers/instructors can inspire students about Federal employment and encourage them to consider employment with your agency via the Pathways Program. This results in a win-win for the academic institution as well as your agency.

  6. Myth: An agency may document IPA assignments for full-time employment only.

    Truth: An agency may document IPA assignments for intermittent, part-time, and full-time employment.

Provisions

Revised Intergovernmental Personnel Act

Revised Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) mobility program regulations (5 CFR part 334), effective May 29, 1997, allow federal agencies to operate in a more efficient and productive manner. These new regulations contain two major changes.

  • Agencies are now responsible for certifying the eligibility of "other organizations" for participation in the mobility program. Previously, this certification was done by the Office of Personnel Management.

  • Agencies need no longer submit assignment agreements to the Office of Personnel Management. The information in this publication will assist agencies in their day-to-day management of the mobility program. questions or comments about these procedures.

Purpose of Program

Assignments to or from state and local governments, institutions of higher education, Indian tribal governments and other eligible organizations are intended to facilitate cooperation between the Federal Government and the non-Federal entity through the temporary assignment of skilled personnel. These assignments allow civilian employees of Federal agencies to serve with eligible non-Federal organizations for a limited period without loss of employee rights and benefits. Employees of State and local governments, Indian tribal governments, institutions of higher education and other eligible organizations may serve in Federal agencies for similar periods. The legal authority for assignments under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act is 5 USC sections 3371 through 3375. The regulations can be found in Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), part 5, chapter 334.

Each assignment should be made for purposes which the Federal agency head, or his or her designee, determines are of mutual concern and benefit to the Federal agency and to the non-Federal organization. Each proposed assignment should be carefully examined to ensure that it is for sound public purposes and furthers the goals and objectives of the participating organizations. Assignments arranged to meet the personal interests of employees, to circumvent personnel ceilings, or to avoid unpleasant personnel decisions are contrary to the spirit and intent of the mobility assignment program.

The goal of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act mobility program is to facilitate the movement of employees, for short periods of time, when this movement serves a sound public purpose. Mobility assignments may be used to achieve objectives such as:

  • strengthening the management capabilities of Federal agencies, State, local and Indian tribal governments, and other eligible organizations;
  • assisting the transfer and use of new technologies and approaches to solving governmental problems;
  • facilitating an effective means of involving state and local officials in developing and implementing Federal policies and programs; and,
  • providing program and developmental experience which will enhance the assignee's performance in his or her regular job.

Coverage

  • 5 CFR part 334 provides definitions of organizations and individuals covered by the Intergovernmental Personnel Act provisions of 5 USC section 3372(a)(1).. Individuals excluded from participation in the Intergovernmental Personnel Act mobility program include:
    • Federal, State or local government employees serving under time-limited, temporary or term appointment, non-career or limited SES appointments, or Schedule C appointments;
    • Elected Federal, State or local government officials;
    • Members of the uniformed military services and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and
    • Students employed in research, graduate, or teaching assistant and similar temporary positions.

Back to Top

Certification of "Other Organizations"

The Intergovernmental Personnel Act regulations specify that "other organizations" are eligible to participate and define what an "other organization" is. They also require that entities interested in participating in the mobility program as an "other organization" have eligibility certified by the Federal agency with which they are entering into an agreement. If an organization has already been certified by an agency, this certification is permanent and may apply throughout the Federal Government. Another agency can accept this certification or require an organization to submit the appropriate paperwork for review. Requests for certification should include a copy of:

  • the organization's articles of incorporation;
  • bylaws;
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) letter of nonprofit status; and
  • any other information describing the organization's activities as they relate to the public management concerns of governments or universities.

List of organizations with IPA agreements with Federal agencies includes information submitted by agencies in the FY 2010 data call.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management does not certify organizations for participation in an IPA agreement. Each Federal Government agency certifies an organization for an IPA agreement.

Length of Assignment

Assignment agreements can be made for up to two years, and may be intermittent, part-time, or full-time. The agency head, or his or her designee, may extend an assignment for an additional two years when the extension will be to the benefit of both organizations.

5 CFR part 334 states that an employee who has served for four continuous years on a single assignment may not be sent on another assignment without at least a 12-month return to duty with his or her regular employer. Successive assignments without a break of at least 60 calendar days will be regarded as continuous service under the mobility authority.

The regulations prohibit a Federal agency from sending on assignment an employee who has served on mobility assignments for more than a total of six years. The Office of Personnel Management may waive this provision upon the written request of the agency head.

In the case of assignments made to Indian tribes or tribal organizations, the agency head (or designee), may extend the period of assignment to any length of time where it is determined that the assignment will continue to benefit both the Federal agency and the Indian tribe or tribal organization.

Reimbursement for Assignment

Cost-sharing arrangements for mobility assignments are negotiated between the participating organizations. The Federal agency may agree to pay all, some, or none of the costs associated with an assignment. Costs may include basic pay, supplemental pay, fringe benefits, and travel and relocation expenses.

Agencies may consider the income from certain private consulting work as part of the academic pay of university employees. Specifically, when the regular tour of duty for a university employee includes an allotment of time for consulting, or when the employee is performing any job-related consulting that cannot be continued during the assignment, the income received from the consulting may be regarded as part of the employee's academic pay.

Cost-sharing arrangements should be based on the extent to which the participating organizations benefit from the assignment. The larger share of the costs should be absorbed by the organization which benefits most from the assignment. Exceptions might occur when an organization's resources do not permit costs to be shared on a relative benefit basis.

Back to top

Travel, Relocation, and Per Diem

A Federal agency may pay the travel expenses authorized under the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) (41 CFR chapters 301-304) chapter 301 of a Federal employee or non-Federal employee on an Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignment. An agency may pay a per diem allowance at the assignment location in accordance with FTR part 301-7, or the following limited relocation expenses:

  • travel and transportation expenses of the employee to and from the assignment location under FTR part 302-2;
  • travel and transportation expenses of the employee's immediate family to and from the assignment location under FTR part 302-2;
  • transportation and temporary storage expenses of the employee's household goods and personal effects under FTR part 302-8;
  • temporary quarters subsistence expenses under FTR part 302-5 at the time the assignment commences and at the time the assignment is completed;
  • a miscellaneous expense allowance under FTR part 302-3; and
  • the expenses of non-temporary storage of the employee's household goods and personal effects under FTR part 302-9, when the employee is assigned to an isolated location.

An agency may select between payment of a per diem allowance at the assignment location or the limited relocation expenses, but may not pay both. However, an agency may pay per diem for travel away from the assignment location, even if it pays the limited relocation allowances, so long as the employee does not travel to his/her official station. An agency should consider the cost to the Federal Government to be a major factor when determining whether to pay a per diem allowance at the assignment location or limited relocation allowances. An agency should also consider the duration of the assignment. A per diem allowance is meant for shorter assignments. The payment of per diem for an indeterminate period or a period of more than one year is taxable to an employee, so an agency should not pay a per diem allowance for an assignment expected to last more than one year, or for an indefinite period.

If an agency pays a per diem allowance at the assignment location, the per diem allowance may be paid only for the individual on the mobility assignment. If an agency pays relocation, the agency may pay transportation expenses for the immediate family of the employee. An agency, however, cannot pay the expenses of selling or purchasing a residence, nor the expenses of property management services while the employee is on the assignment. An agency may not authorize a temporary change of station under subparts C and D of FTR part 302-1 to transfer an employee to the assignment location.

The employee must sign a service agreement for one year or the length of the assignment, whichever is shorter, to be eligible for payment of per diem at the assignment location or limited relocation expenses. The employee will be responsible for repaying any expenses if he or she fails to complete the service agreement, unless the reasons for failing to complete the agreement are beyond his or her control. In addition, Federal agency officials may waive the requirement to pay back expenses if they feel the waiver is justified. The service agreement does not cover travel expenses paid when the employee travels away from the assignment location.

Standards of Conduct and Conflict-of-interest Provisions

A non-Federal employee on assignment to a Federal agency, whether by appointment or on detail, is subject to a number of provisions of law governing the ethical and other conduct of Federal employees. Title 18, United States Code, prohibits certain kinds of activity:

  • receiving compensation from outside sources for matters affecting the Government (section 203),
  • acting as agent or attorney for anyone in matters affecting the Government (section 205),
  • acting or participating in any matter in which he or she, the immediate family, partner; or, the organization with which he or she is connected has a financial interest (section 208),
  • receiving salaries or contributions from other than Government sources for his or her Government services (section 209),
  • soliciting political contributions (sections 602 and 603),
  • intimidating to secure political contributions (section 606),
  • failing to account for public money (section 643),
  • converting property of another (section 654),
  • disclosing confidential information (section 1905); and,
  • lobbying with appropriated funds (section 1913).

Non-Federal employees are also subject to the Ethics in Government Act of 1978; 5 CFR part 735 which regulates employee responsibilities and conduct; as well as agency standards of conduct regulations. The Intergovernmental Personnel Act does not exempt a Federal employee, whether on detail or on leave without pay, from Federal conflict-of-interest statutes when assigned to a non-Federal organization. The Federal employee may not act as an agent or attorney on behalf of the non-Federal entity before a Federal agency or a court in connection with any proceeding, application, or other matter in which the Federal Government is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. The Federal agency should be particularly alert to any possible conflict-of-interest, or the appearance thereof, which may be inherent in the assignment of one of its employees. Conflict-of-interest rules should be reviewed with the employee to assure that potential conflict-of-interest situations do not inadvertently arise during an assignment.

Under the terms of the Indian Self-Determination and Educational Assistance Act, Federal employees on assignment to an Indian tribal government are exempt from conflict-of-interest provisions concerning representational activities, provided the employee meets notification requirements. Federal employees may act as agents or attorneys for, or appear on behalf of, such tribes in connection with any matter pending before any department, agency, court, or commission, including any matter in which the United States is a party or has a direct and substantial interest. The Federal assignee must advise, in writing, the head of the department, agency, court, or commission with which he or she is dealing or appearing on behalf of the tribal government, of any personal and substantial involvement he or she may have had as an officer or employee of the United States in connection with the matter involved.

Non-Federal employees on assignment to the Federal Government are subject to the provisions of 5 USC chapter 73, United States Code (Suitability, Security, and Conduct, including restrictions on political activity), and any applicable non-Federal prohibitions.

Back to Top

Arranging an Assignment

Assignments under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act are management-initiated. Development of the proposed assignment should be controlled by management. The benefits to the Federal agency and the non-Federal organization are the primary considerations in initiating assignments; not the desires or personal needs of an individual employee. The assignment is voluntary and must be agreed to by the employee. Regulations require that an assignment must be implemented by a written agreement.

When developing an assignment which involves the movement of a non-Federal employee to a Federal agency, the agreement should specify that the employee can return to the non-Federal position occupied prior to the assignment or to one of comparable pay, duties and seniority and that the employee's rights and benefits will be fully protected.

Federal agencies should use their own form for recording the agreement. The specific content of the agreement may vary according to the assignment. Agency forms should provide, at a minimum, the following information:

  • name, social security number, current job title, salary, classification, and address of the employee,
  • parties to the agreement (both Federal and non-Federal organizations),
  • position information, including organizational location of both the original position and the position entered into under the agreement,
  • type of assignment (e.g., detail or leave without pay; non-Federal to Federal; Federal to non-Federal), and period covered by the assignment agreement,
  • goals of the assignment and a brief statement of how the goals are to be achieved,
  • relative benefits accruing to each organization and the cost-sharing arrangement based on these benefits,
  • how increased knowledge, skills and abilities gained by the employee during the assignment will be utilized at the completion of the assignment,
  • applicability of Federal conflict-of interest laws,
  • decisions of the Federal agency and the non-Federal organization concerning the employee's salary, supervision, payment of travel and transportation expenses, supplemental pay, entitlement to leave and holidays, provisions for reimbursement and the method of reimbursement,
  • arrangements for maintaining leave records,
  • employee benefits that will be retained; and,
  • Privacy Act Statement.

The agreement should also make clear that if an employee is paid allowable travel, relocation, and per diem expenses, he or she must complete the entire period of the assignment or one year, whichever is shorter, or reimburse the Government for those expenses.

For Federal employees the agreement should assure that the assignee knows of his or her obligation to return to the Federal service for a time equal to the length of the assignment, or be liable for all expenses (exclusive of salary and benefits) associated with the assignment.

The cost-sharing arrangements involved in a mobility assignment are worked out between the participating organizations. The Federal agency may agree to pay all, some, or none of the costs of an assignment. Such costs may include employee pay, fringe benefits, relocation costs, and travel and per diem expenses.

Termination of an Assignment

An assignment may be terminated at any time at the option of the Federal or non-Federal organization. Where possible, the party terminating the agreement before the original completion date should give a 30-day notice to all parties involved. This notification should be in writing and should include the reasons for the termination. The Office of Personnel Management may terminate an assignment or take other corrective actions when an assignment is found to violate the Intergovernmental Personnel Act regulations. A mobility assignment must be terminated immediately whenever the assignee is no longer employed by his or her original employer, regardless of whether the assignment is a detail or an appointment.

Changes to the Assignment Agreement

Any significant changes in an employee's duties, responsibilities, salary, work assignment location or supervisory relationships should be duly recorded as a modification to the original agreement. The assignment agreement for each employee must always be accurate, complete, and current. Minor changes such as salary increases due to annual pay adjustments, changes in benefits due to revised coverage, and very short-term changes in duties do not require a modification to the original agreement.

Oversight

The Office of Personnel Management will maintain oversight over agencies' use of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act program. It is imperative that agencies maintain accurate records of all Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignments (see Arranging an Assignment) as well as eligibility certifications of "other organizations." In addition, the Office of Personnel Management's Office of Merit Systems Oversight and Effectiveness may conduct, as appropriate, reviews of agencies' administration of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act program.

Back to Top

Assignment

Status of Employee

An employee of a non-Federal organization must be employed by that organization for at least 90 days in a career position before entering into an Intergovernmental Personnel Act agreement. This individual may be given a temporary appointment or be assigned by detail to a Federal agency. It is the Federal agency's responsibility to inform the employee of the applicable Federal employee laws. Federal conflict-of-interest laws and the Federal tort claims statutes also apply.

A non-Federal employee who is assigned to a Federal position, either by detail or appointment, may exercise supervision over Federal employees.

Agencies should not offer permanent appointments to non-Federal employees assigned to them. The Intergovernmental Personnel Act mobility program is not to be used as a mechanism to facilitate career changes.

Non-Federal employees on assignment to a Federal agency by appointment are Federal employees for the duration of that appointment and have all the rights, benefits, and privileges associated with that appointment. This includes eligibility for awards given under the authority of 5 USC chapter 45.

Non-Federal employees on assignment to a Federal agency by detail can receive recognition through letters of appreciation or commendation but are not eligible for awards granted under the incentive awards programs governed by 5 USC chapter 45. A Quality Step Increase (QSI) cannot be approved for non-Federal employees.

Status of a Non-federal Employee on Detail

Non-Federal employees on detail to Federal agencies remain employees of their permanent organizations for most purposes. Detailees are not eligible to enroll in Federal health benefits programs, group life insurance, or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). An employee assigned by detail to a Federal agency may be assigned to an established, classified position in the Federal agency, or may be given a set of ad hoc, unclassified duties, relevant only to the specific assignment project.

An employee assigned by detail to a classified position in a Federal agency is entitled to earn the basic rate of pay, including any locality payment, which the duties of the assignment position would warrant under the applicable classification and pay provisions of the Federal agency. If the assignee's non-Federal salary is less than the minimum rate of pay for the Federal position, the agency must supplement the salary to make up the difference. Supplemental pay may vary because of changes in the rate of pay of the Federal position. It cannot be paid in advance or in a lump sum and is not conditional on the completion of the full period of the assignment. Supplemental pay may be paid directly to the employee or reimbursed to the non-Federal organization.

If the assignee is detailed to a set of unclassified duties, the assignee continues to be paid directly by the non-Federal organization at a rate of pay based on the assignee's non-Federal job. The Federal agency may agree to reimburse the non-Federal organization for all, some, or none of the costs of the assignment.

Detailees will usually have the same workweek and hours of duty as Federal employees in the agency to which they are assigned. However, if the workweek of the permanent employer is, by law or local ordinance, shorter than the Federal workweek, the employee's workweek should be adjusted as needed. Detailees are eligible to participate in alternative work schedule arrangements of the Federal agency to which they are assigned.

Detailees are covered under their permanent employer's leave system. The assignment agreement will specify how the permanent employer will be notified of leave taken and how the use of leave will be approved. The agreement will also spell out what holidays will be observed by the assignee.

Back to Top

Status of a Non-federal Employee Receiving a Federal Appointment

By statute, a non-Federal employee may be given an excepted appointment for two years without regard to the provisions governing appointment in the competitive service. This appointment may be extended for not more than an additional two years. Agencies should establish qualification requirements for assignment positions in accordance with 5 CFR part 302, which governs employment in the excepted service.

The Intergovernmental Personnel Act noncompetitive appointment authority provisions of 5 USC section 3372 apply only to positions in the competitive service. In order to appoint a non-Federal Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignee to an SES position, an agency must first obtain an SES limited term appointment authority from the Office of Personnel Management. However, only SES General positions may be filled by limited appointment, i.e., a non-Federal employee cannot be given a limited term appointment to an SES Career Reserved position. Requests for allocation of an SES limited term appointment authority for non-Federal Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignees should be directed to the Deputy Associate Director, Employee Relations and Executive Development, Room 7412, 1900 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20415-0001.

Normally, a non-Federal employee is appointed at the minimum rate of the grade. However, if an agency wants to pay an advanced step rate for a position at GS-11 through GS-15 based upon superior qualifications of the applicant, it may do so.

Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignees appointed for more than one year are eligible for within-grade increases. They are entitled to cost-of-living allowances and other pay differentials, and are allowed to accumulate and use leave to the same extent as other Federal employees. However, employees appointed to successive temporary appointments of one year or less may not earn a within-grade increase, even if the time under the successive temporary appointments exceeds one year.

A non-Federal employee is not eligible to enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program unless his or her Federal appointment results in the loss of coverage under the non-Federal health benefits system. In such a case, the appointee may enroll in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Non-Federal employees given appointments are not covered by any retirement system for Federal employees or by the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program

Questions or comments regarding this program may be submitted to: ipa@opm.gov

Back to Top

Control Panel