Congressional Award Program:

Problems at the National Level Must Be Solved if the Program Is To Progress

AFMD-89-14: Published: Nov 14, 1988. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1988.

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Pursuant to a legislative mandate, GAO: (1) audited the financial records of the Congressional Award Foundation, a nonprofit corporation the Congressional Award Board established to carry out its daily operations; and (2) evaluated the effectiveness of the Board's Congressional Award Program, a locally administered program intended to promote youth initiative, achievement, and excellence.

GAO found that, at the local level: (1) the program steadily increased its number of local councils and medal earners; (2) program volunteers and participants generally expressed satisfaction with the program; and (3) councils thoroughly reviewed and verified applications for medal eligibility and raised the minimal financial support they needed to sustain operations. GAO also found that the Board and the Foundation: (1) had difficulty raising adequate private-sector funding and needed a congressional appropriation to sustain operations; (2) exercised ineffective controls over expenses and missed opportunities to reduce costs; (3) did not comply with financial control provisions; (4) experienced several management problems affecting successful program operation, including extended position vacancies, ineffective consultants, low meeting attendance, poor problem identification and resolution, inactive Board committees, lack of resolution follow-up, and lack of role definition for the Foundation; and (5) had not yet implemented the program's scholarship feature, which could greatly increase public awareness and private funding.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Executive and search committees have been formed and put into operation. More committees need to be established. The Board chairman does not intend to prepare written mission statements. No additional committees will be established in the near future.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to determine whether committees formed in the past are still relevant to current Board needs. For those that are, the Board should: (1) ensure that they have written mission statements; and (2) redesignate Board members to serve on them.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Four individuals have been proposed to congressional leadership for Board membership. More vacancies still need candidates. The Foundation director is working with congressional leaders' offices. No assessment of Board members is intended. Most vacancies have now been filled. Other nominees are pending.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to: (1) work with the congressional leadership to fill vacant Board positions with qualified, dedicated individuals who will make time available for program work; and (2) assess the performance of current Board members and determine the desirability of their continued participation.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Minutes of all meetings are being prepared, but protocol for meetings needs to be established.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to: (1) conduct Board meetings in a more systematic manner, such as following established rules of order, to ensure that uncompleted or unresolved matters are not overlooked and that the financial condition of the program and committee activities will be routinely discussed; and (2) prepare minutes for all Board and committee meetings, in accordance with bylaw provisions.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Annual reports for fiscal years 1986, 1987, and 1988 were submitted to Congress.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to ensure that the Foundation issues annual reports with all required information included for 1986 and 1987 and make arrangements for issuing subsequent reports within the legislated deadline.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Board has made and continues to make efforts to raise funds. A plan has been drafted, but has not been approved yet. The Board has been successful in attracting more donations in the last 6 months than in the previous 2 years.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should require the Board to become more actively involved in fundraising. A concerted effort should be made to develop and implement a plan to successfully raise contributions from private-sector organizations.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Foundation's car was sold, the director's salary was reduced, and operations were moved to rent-free space. Some furniture and equipment was also sold.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to actively consider and act upon all reasonable opportunities to reduce operating costs, such as: (1) selling the Foundation's car unless it can be shown to be cost-effective; and (2) reducing Foundation staff salaries at least until financial resources and program activities begin to show substantial growth.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Forgiveness was obtained on over $325,000 in debts. The Board must obtain funds to pay off the remainder of debts. All long-term debt has been forgiven. While much of the old debts were paid off, new ones have been incurred. The debt balance is slowly being reduced through partial payments.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to develop and implement a plan to pay off all existing debts. The possibility of seeking forgiveness for these debts, making them interest-free, and working out long-term repayments should be explored.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Treasurer has been inactive since the GAO report was issued. No action has been taken to remove or replace the Treasurer. A decision was made not to have the Director repay any money. The Board Treasurer is inactive and no effort is being made to change the situation. The new Treasurer has been elected. He has been active in reviewing expenditures and approves the Foundation's expenses.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to require the Board's Treasurer to more actively carry out the responsibilities specified for that position in the Foundation's bylaws. In the future, the Treasurer should review Foundation expenditures and approve all reimbursements of the Foundation Director's expenses before they are made. Further, the Treasurer should evaluate and recommend to the Board whether any expenses paid for the Director after 1985 should be repaid to the Foundation.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Board decided that, since there was no money for scholarships, it was not worthwhile to develop guidelines for the scholarship feature of the program. A plan was prepared by a Board member. The Board voted to table any action on the plan indefinitely. Money problems make implementation unlikely. The Board is now considering various proposals for a scholarship program.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to develop appropriate guidelines for carrying out the scholarship feature of the program and implement them as soon as funds are available to award scholarships.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  10. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Other priorities have come before this. Lack of funds has caused the Board to forego any expansion of publicity efforts. The Board, because of the program's poor financial condition, has had to focus on raising funds. After funds have been raised, then efforts will start on expanding the program.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to expand program publicity and target it to reach potential program participants and supervisors.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Foundation director believes that the role of the Foundation is adequately stated in the law and that there is no need to further define it in writing.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to: (1) clearly define the Foundation's role in writing; (2) determine the number and type of staff needed to carry out the Foundation's duties; and (3) identify the other resources needed to fulfill the Foundation's role and select a director who is capable of leading the Foundation in this role.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Annual reports were issued. Most of the debt, including all long-term liabilities, has been eliminated. The remainder of debts need to be retired. Because it lacks the funds to do so, the Board has been unable to comply with one legal provision that does not permit debt to be carried over year to year. As soon as funds can be raised, the debts are to be paid.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Congressional Award Board, should direct the Board to take the actions necessary to ensure that the Board and Foundation are brought into full compliance with authorizing legislation and bylaw provisions and that full compliance is maintained.

    Agency Affected: Congressional Award Board

 

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