OMB's High Risk Program:

Benefits Found but Greater Oversight Needed

AFMD-92-63: Published: Aug 6, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 21, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) high-risk program, focusing on: (1) the involvement of high-level government officials in the program; (2) the accuracy of program progress and status information presented in the President's fiscal year 1993 budget; and (3) OMB general management, organization, staffing, and recordkeeping practices for the program.

GAO found that: (1) the high-risk program has provided a needed focus and emphasis by top-level officials in executive departments and agencies and within OMB on strengthening the operation of federal programs; (2) reporting the status of agency accomplishments in each high-risk area in the President's budget is a positive step toward high visibility and attention to correcting existing problems; (3) audits show that the progress reported in several areas of the budget is misleading or overly optimistic; (4) OMB reported devoting the equivalent of 3 staff years to the high-risk program, but no staff work solely on the program; and (5) records of meetings and agreements were frequently not available.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB's verification process has been expanded to include contacting GAO issue area directors. OMB's 1992 FMFIA guidance requires agencies to provide information on corrective actions taken and agency validation processes and results indicators if the item is corrected. New OMB procedures issued in June 1992 also emphasize GAO's recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen OMB management of and reporting on program progress, the Director, OMB, should require agencies to supply documentation supporting their reported progress and reemphasize to OMB staff responsible for individual high-risk areas the need to independently confirm agency-reported progress, such as by referring to recent work by the inspectors general and GAO.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The President's budget (January 1993 version) indicates on page 195 that OMB plans to do this. However, at the time the budget was prepared, there were no high-risk areas in this category.

    Recommendation: To strengthen OMB management of and reporting on program progress, the Director, OMB, should differentiate in the budget, possibly through the use of additional status codes, between those areas deleted with no material weaknesses remaining and those areas deleted that continue to have material weaknesses and that OMB has directed to the agency to report under the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act of 1982.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OMB does not agree with the core staff concept. However, it did assign an additional FTE to the unit that manages the high-risk program. Furthermore, OMB requested additional staff for the management area but the FTE were not authorized. GAO believes that increased OMB commitment under the current staffing freeze is sufficient action to close this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To strengthen OMB management of and reporting on program progress, the Director, OMB, should designate a core staff of several individuals with full-time responsibilities for overseeing OMB staff and agency efforts on the high-risk program.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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