Natural Resources and Environment:

Financial Management Review of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Reported Allocation of Resources for its Refuge Program and New Assistant Regional Manager Positions

AIMD-00-84R: Published: Feb 15, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on its financial management review of the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) reported allocation of resources for its Refuge Program and New Assistant Regional Manager Positions, focusing on: (1) what systems FWS used to track how allocated funds were spent and to determine the full costs of operating the refuge program; (2) how much funding the service allocated to refuge operations and maintenance and how those funds were used; and (3) the number of new Assistant Regional Director (ARD) positions FWS created and the source of funding for these positions through fiscal year (FY) 2000.

GAO noted that: (1) FWS uses its accounting system, the Federal Financial System (FFS) to track, for purposes of financial accounting and funds control, how allocated funds are spent; (2) however, FWS does not have a system for tracking the costs of the refuge program on a full cost basis, as defined by Department of the Interior policy and federal accounting standards; (3) FFS is generally being used to track direct and indirect costs at the budget activity level, but not below that level; (4) FWS' budget structure is such that the general administration (G&A) activity includes many costs that would generally be classified as indirect costs of the refuge and other programs; (5) the other three activities include many costs that would generally be considered direct costs of the programs that align with each of these activities; (6) however, FWS is not determining the full cost of the refuge program or the other major programs that are funded by the Resources Management Appropriation account because it does not use FFS or any other method to distribute all of the indirect costs in the G&A activity to each of these programs; (7) for FY 1995 through FY 1999, FWS allocated between $168.2 million and $236.5 million annually for refuge operations and maintenance; (8) for FY 1999, this represents about 36 percent of the Resource Management Appropriation account; (9) of the funds allocated to refuge operations and maintenance for FY 1995 through FY 1998, an average of: (a) 75.3 percent was obligated by refuges and wetland management districts; (b) 22.3 percent was obligated by headquarters and regional offices; (c) 2.3 percent was obligated by other units; and (d) the remaining .1 percent was unobligated; (9) of the funds allocated to refuge operations and maintenance for FY 1999: (a) 46.3 percent was obligated by refuges and wetland management districts; (b) 13.1 percent was obligated by headquarters and regional offices; (c) a small fraction was obligated by other units; and (d) the remaining 39.6 percent was unobligated as of June 30, 1999; (10) as part of implementing ecosystem management, FWS created new ARD positions in FY 1998; (11) these positions, which number 15, are funded from amounts allocated to the Refuges and Wildlife, Ecological Services, and Fisheries activities of the Resource Management Appropriation account; and (12) under the current plans, the Refuges and Wildlife activity will fund approximately 50 percent of the salaries and benefits for these new positions in FY 2000.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendation for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To properly capture the full costs of the outputs associated with the FWS' mission goals, the Director, FWS, should direct the Chief Financial Officer to identify and accumulate direct and indirect costs, distribute indirect costs, and monitor and evaluate the full cost of FWS outputs, as defined by Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standards No. 4.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: United States Fish and Wildlife Service

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Progress on the implementation of this recommendation has reached a stalemate because of a disagreement on what is considered an output, based on the guidance in Statement of Federal Financial Accounting Standard No. 4 (SFFAS No.4). FWS' position is that its outputs are the strategic activities defined in the three mission goals of its strategic plan. These are: (1) sustainability of fish and wildlife populations; (2) habitat conservation; and (3) public use and enjoyment. FWS argues that, because it reports the full cost of these strategic activities in its Statement of Net Cost of Operations, it is in compliance with the SFFAS No.4 requirement for reporting the full cost of outputs produced by a responsibility segment and has implemented GAO's recommendation. GAO disagrees with FWS' position that its three strategic activities represent outputs. SFFAS No. 4 defines outputs as products and services generated from the consumption of resources and requires that outputs produced by responsibility segments should be accumulated and, if practicable, measured in units. This requirement suggests that, to be accumulated, outputs should be quantifiable and measurable. Since the FWS strategic activities are neither quantifiable nor measurable, GAO does not consider them to be outputs as intended by SFFAS No.4. GAO continues to maintain its position that, once FWS has properly defined all of its outputs associated with each of its strategic activities, it should identify and accumulate direct and indirect costs, distribute indirect costs, and monitor and evaluate the full cost of these outputs. FWS' current practice of reporting the full cost of its strategic activities falls short of these SFFAS No.4 requirements.

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