The recruiting challenge faced by government agencies is a tremendous one.  A March study by the National Association of State Chief Administrators found that government job posting rose 11% from 2013 to 2017, while the number of people applying for state jobs declined by 25%.  There are plenty of reasons; it is difficult to attract young workers into government jobs, government salaries are lower than private sector salaries, and the private sector isn’t having an easy time hiring either.  Hiring for a role can take well over a year in some cases.

This creates many obvious challenges for agencies.  Core agency responsibilities go unmet or come with an unreasonable delay.  Strategic objectives designed to improve the agency go without progress, because there’s no time for senior management to step away from daily tasks and think strategically.   Recommendations by oversight teams such as Inspectors General are also less likely to be addressed in a timely manner.  One of the less obvious challenges of an understaffed agency, however, is the heightened likelihood of fraud, waste and abuse.

Irreplaceable Employees Commit Inconceivable Acts

Nobody is irreplaceable – every day, an agency somewhere loses its best employee, and it continues operating despite the loss.  It’s also important for agency leadership to ensure that nobody is perceived as irreplaceable.  When people seem irreplaceable, they have the power to ignore agency rules and regulations (or even the law in some cases) with impunity.

Unfortunately, if agency jobs go long enough without being filled, managers begin to believe that nobody can be replaced.  This makes everybody irreplaceable – each loss is a role that must be shouldered by the remaining staff.  And as more and more employees leave an already-understaffed agency, each remaining employee is more overworked, less satisfied with their role, and more disengaged from their job.

All of these factors increase the likelihood that some employees in a position to do so will attempt to steal from the agency or accept bribes and kickbacks.  And unfortunately for the agency, those misdeeds are less likely to be reported, because managers and co-workers know that if an employee is terminated, their replacement might not show up for a year or more.  Even bad employees start to look irreplaceable in these situations.

It’s important to ensure that managers understand the potential drawbacks of these situations. There are penalties for covering up a crime, of course.  But there are other consequences, as well.  If a short-sighted manager tries to protect a bad employee from termination, they may soon find themselves regretting that decision – because the good employees will get a job somewhere else and leave the bad ones behind.

Is your agency facing staffing shortages?  If so, it might be time to remind managers that the only way to keep their good employees is to deal with the bad ones appropriately.

To learn how CMTS can help your investigations department manage cases more effectively, call us at 919-747-3812 or email us at