Weak Management in Animal Disease Control Program Results in Large Economic Losses

CED-81-96: Published: Jun 24, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 24, 1981.

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is responsible for conducting regulatory and control programs to protect and improve the Nation's animal and plant resources. The Service has two basic units: Veterinary Services, and Plant Protection and Quarantine. GAO reviewed the Veterinary Service's Brucellosis Eradication Program to determine whether improvements could be made.

Progress in the Brucellosis Eradication Program has been impeded because several disease control measures have not been implemented effectively. Some animals sold at livestock markets and identified as infected could not be traced to their herds of origin because of inadequate control over the collection of ownership information and the identification tagging of animals. Herds were not always tested in time to assure that infection was expeditiously identified. Controls were not always used to make sure that all animals in quarantined herds were accounted for from test to test so that any infection was identified as quickly as possible. Field personnel had not always followed procedures to locate herds exposed to disease by cattle purchased from herds subsequently found to be infected. While field personnel often attributed these operational shortcomings to lack of industry cooperation or personnel shortages, GAO found that weaknesses in the management systems were a primary cause of ineffective implementation of disease control measures. The management systems do not provide assurance that field personnel and each organizational unit know what is expected of them in implementing these measures, nor do they provide guidance for measuring performance regarding these expectations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to resubmit the USDA draft bill authorizing civil penalties and, if it is enacted: (1) establish heavier penalties for those who repeatedly circumvent disease control regulations; and (2) assure that penalties exceed the cost of complying with laws and regulations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to strengthen enforcement activities by: (1) creating a separate line function for compliance personnel; (2) requiring closer coordination of field investigations; and (3) forming a cadre of personnel with the necessary training and experience to effectively pursue cases of improper health certifications by private veterinarians.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should revise the Brucellosis Eradication Uniform Methods and Rules to include dealer recordkeeping provisions as a consideration in certifying a state's disease status.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to collect and analyze information regarding the effects of extending the test period to include the recognized incubation period, including: (1) any increase in the number of infected animals identified; and (2) any increase in cost to herd owners.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to formulate cooperative agreements which clearly show lines of authority and responsibility for program functions at each organizational level for both state and Veterinary Services personnel.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  6. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to modify the automated data system so that it can provide summary and exception information reflecting the degree to which disease control measures are properly implemented by each organizational unit and install the automated data system in states having a high incidence of animal disease.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  7. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to establish goals that emphasize improved implementation of disease control measures.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  8. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to develop instructions covering the operations necessary to assure that disease control measures are properly implemented and, in conjunction with cooperating state agencies, provide the instructions to all field personnel.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

 

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