Inspectors General:

Compliance With Professional Standards by the Agriculture Inspector General

AFMD-86-41: Published: Sep 30, 1986. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 1986.

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GAO reviewed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Office of Inspector General's (OIG) compliance with professional standards in conducting audits and investigations.

GAO found that, of the 23 audit and investigation standards it reviewed, OIG satisfactorily complied with 18. Although OIG complied with certain aspects of the other 5 standards, GAO found that: (1) some OIG supervisors did not document their reviews of subordinates' work and their reviews of evidence to support report statements; (2) auditors did not have evidence to support some report statements; (3) some audit reports were not clear, concise, and convincing; (4) OIG investigators did not prepare plans for most of the investigations reviewed; and (5) OIG staff could not always locate case files in records storage centers. GAO believes that, in addition to improvements needed to bring OIG into satisfactory compliance with certain standards, OIG needs to: (1) develop a written strategic plan for each of the program areas it audits; and (2) consider revising training plans for investigators.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG developed a revision to its directives requiring documentation of supervisory review.

    Recommendation: To assist OIG in satisfactorily complying with certain aspects of audit standards, IG should require supervisors to: (1) review the extent that staff assistants adhere to audit plans; and (2) document the reviews.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG provided all auditors with detailed training on work-paper preparation policies, as of December 1986.

    Recommendation: To assist OIG in satisfactorily complying with certain aspects of audit standards, IG should clarify OIG work-paper preparation policies to explain how work papers should be made clear, understandable, and cross-indexed to source documents.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG issued an audit procedure instruction in June 1986.

    Recommendation: To assist OIG in satisfactorily complying with certain aspects of audit standards, IG should clarify OIG report preparation policies to require a report statement on the extent that the audit adhered to generally accepted government auditing standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG developed a written strategy for the areas it audits to guide its annual audit planning.

    Recommendation: To increase the ability of annual audit planning to bring OIG to bear on the most significant department issues, IG should develop a written strategy for each of the program areas OIG audits.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG promulgated an instruction to promote reviews of financial reports during financial systems' reviews.

    Recommendation: To increase the discipline for sound financial management, enhance oversight, and help ensure financial integrity, IG should redirect his current financial audit program toward the long-range objective of expressing financial and compliance opinions on the accuracy and adequacy of total agency financial reports.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG developed an audit procedure and instruction to require such disclosure statements.

    Recommendation: Reviewing internal controls is particularly important because of the government's renewed emphasis on agency internal controls pursuant to the Financial Integrity Act (FIA). When material weaknesses in internal controls are identified in OIG audits, IG should require that the audit report disclose whether or not these weaknesses were included in the agency's reporting under FIA. This will make OIG audit reports more useful to OIG and other audit groups in subsequent work done under the act.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG revised policy on audit followup/closure gives assistant regional IG's the responsibility to monitor subordinates' actions.

    Recommendation: To ensure that field offices track audit recommendations until implementation, IG should: (1) instruct auditors on OIG policy to keep recommendations open in the tracking system until corrective action has been taken; and (2) require regional IG's to approve the closing of all recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG revised policy on semiannual reports to require the segregation of monetary results for which collection is not appropriate from those having the potential of being paid back to the government.

    Recommendation: To provide more understandable information in semiannual reports and avoid overstating audit savings, as well as questioned costs and loans, IG should define questioned costs and loans to include only outlays which auditors believe should not be charged to programs and, potentially, may be paid back to the government.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG revised policy on semiannual reports to require use of the term "management's commitment to more efficiently use funds in lieu of savings."

    Recommendation: To provide more understandable information in semiannual reports and avoid overstating audit savings, as well as questioned costs and loans, IG should only show audit findings as savings when USDA management has implemented OIG recommendations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG revised policy on semiannual reports to show monetary amounts are subject to reduction.

    Recommendation: To provide more understandable information in semiannual reports and avoid overstating audit savings, as well as questioned costs and loans, IG should clearly state that the "potential recoveries" are subject to reduction under debt collection procedures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG revised policy on semiannual reports to establish consistency in terminology.

    Recommendation: To provide more understandable information in semiannual reports and avoid overstating audit savings, as well as questioned costs and loans, IG should consistently define and use the same terminology in the various sections of the semiannual report.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG disseminated a planning methodology to operational units and prepared a written investigative work plan.

    Recommendation: To assist OIG in satisfactorily complying with certain aspects of the standards, IG should direct the assistant IG for investigations to prepare a written plan for the investigation function, specifying the goals, objectives, or tasks to be accomplished by his office within a specific time and the benefits, accomplishments, or results to be derived from attaining the goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Assistant IG for Investigations sent a memo to regional units to adhere to existing requirements on preparing investigative plans.

    Recommendation: To assist OIG in satisfactorily complying with certain aspects of the standards, IG should instruct supervisors and investigators on OIG policy requiring investigation plans for individual cases.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  14. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG established a procedure to document the custody of case records. All records are hand carried to the records center by the official who signed them out.

    Recommendation: To assist OIG in satisfactorily complying with certain aspects of the standards, IG should establish a procedure for documenting the custody of special investigations unit case records being sent to the Washington file room.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG issued a policy supplement that applies to all investigative staff, including mandatory training, and considers topics specified by PCIE guidelines.

    Recommendation: To improve the training program for OIG investigations, IG should review the existing training plan for investigators and consider revising it to ensure the plan: (1) applies to all investigative staff, including special investigations unit investigators; (2) states which training is mandatory for investigators; and (3) includes training topics specified by the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency (PCIE) guidelines, which are consistent with OIG needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG issued a supplement to policy directives requiring documentation of the removal of notes, reasons for the removal, and the location of the notes.

    Recommendation: IG should expand OIG policy on retaining interview notes by requiring that investigative case files be annotated when investigator's interview notes are removed from them.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  17. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Assistant IG for Investigations now oversees the Special Investigations Unit and directed that it be included in the Quality-Assurance Program.

    Recommendation: To help ensure the quality of all OIG investigative activities, IG should extend the quality-assurance program to include evaluating the investigative work done by the special investigations unit in Washington.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  18. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG issued a directive on referencing in August 1987 to require an independent examination and verification of the quality of an audit report and the work performed.

    Recommendation: To assist OIG in satisfactorily complying with certain aspects of audit standards, the Inspector General (IG) should strengthen quality controls over audit reports by developing and implementing a mechanism, such as referencing, to help ensure the adequacy of evidence and to improve report presentation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

  19. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OIG redesigned its guidelines for conducting operational reviews. The guidelines will include tests of operational efficiency and effectiveness to determine compliance with PCIE standards for investigations.

    Recommendation: IG should also redesign the guidelines for conducting operational reviews of OIG units to ensure more comprehensive quality assurance by including more tests of operational efficiency and effectiveness, as well as compliance with PCIE standards for investigations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture: Office of the Inspector General

 

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