Environmental Protection Agency Acts To Improve Computer-Produced Reports

FGMSD-80-11: Published: Dec 11, 1979. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 1979.

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GAO reviewed the need for and usefulness of financial reports produced by three Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) automated accounting systems. The systems were designed to help managers control appropriated funds, monitor states' and local use of grant funds, and control the agency's investment in personal property. They were designed to record all information in a central file from which regional managers could obtain necessary information. The design for one of the systems was approved by GAO in 1977. Approval of the designs for the other two systems was not required. GAO evaluated regional office personnel's use of reports produced by the systems.

GAO found that regional personnel did not obtain all of the information the three systems were capable of producing. Headquarters use of two of the systems was limited because regional offices were either not entering data or entering erroneous data into those systems. The standard reports produced by one system did not give regional managers the financial information in sufficient detail to daily track expenditures, monitor liabilities, and develop sound operating budgets. Although the system included a special feature allowing regional office personnel to design and produce more detailed reports locally, few regions had taken advantage of the feature. Users' conferences held by headquarters managers had not fostered greater system use, and headquarters managers had not independently assessed regional office use of the system. As for the second system, many regional officials felt it was specifically designed for headquarters use and not as a means of obtaining information useful to them. In addition, many regions did not have personnel trained to design and program needed reports. In the case of the third system, headquarters managers had not effectively followed up on known failures of regional personnel to enter financial transaction information and to conduct and follow up on physical inventories of personal property. Overall, EPA was not getting an adequate return in terms of needed and useful information on its investment in design, operation, and use of the three automated information systems.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Administrator of EPA should periodically evaluate the operations of automated information systems and the need for and usefulness of the reports produced. The initial evaluation should include a complete review of all locally designed reports to identify the most useful reports. Then, if appropriate, headquarters should make those reports standard so that the type of information the systems are designed to and capable of producing can be made available to as many regions as possible. The Administrator should ensure that regional personnel receive sufficient training on the best use of all three automated information systems. Also, the Adminstrator should specifically direct headquarters managers of the Grants Information and Control System to review regional use of the grants system to identify ways to make the system more responsive to regional users' needs. Finally, the Administrator should direct regional managers to: (1) hold responsible officials accountable for accurately posting transaction information to the central database and; (2) take the required physical inventories of property.

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