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Cost Recovery Practices Inconsistent With Government Policy

GGD-83-61: Published: Jul 27, 1983. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 1983.

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GAO conducted a review to assess the economy and efficiency of the Environmental Data and Information Service (EDIS) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Although EDIS merged in December 1982 with the National Environmental Satellite Service to become the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service (NESDIS), GAO stated that this merger did not affect the thrust of its report.

The problems found by GAO involve the sale and exchange of environmental data and publications at the three EDIS data centers. GAO found that EDIS cost recovery and user-charge practices are inconsistent with government policy and that these practices have resulted in both overcharges and undercharges. Specifically, EDIS needs to establish management controls to ensure that existing pricing policies are followed in determining the costs on which prices are based, applied uniformly and consistently across EDIS, and observed in decisions regarding the provision of free data.

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

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct EDIS to establish operating instructions to include a requirement to establish the conditions under which data will be provided free, identify the management level at which these decisions will be made, and require written justification which specifically identifies the public interest served.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EDIS provided data showing the reporting requirements and conditions under which data will be exchanged. The EDIS proposed policy was approved and signed on November 5, 1984, by a senior official in NOAA, and implemented by January 1, 1985.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct EDIS to establish operating instructions to include a requirement to establish the specific conditions under which data will be exchanged, identify the management level at which these decisions will be made, and maintain documentation to demonstrate that a reasonable exchange of information had taken place when data are received as an alternative to cost recovery.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EDIS provided data showing the reporting requirements and conditions under which data will be exchanged. The EDIS proposed policy was approved and signed on November 5, 1984, by a senior official in NOAA, and implemented by January 1, 1985.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct EDIS to establish operating instructions to include a requirement to establish agencywide prices for items used at all data centers including staff time charges, postage charges, foreign-check processing charges, and standard media charges.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct EDIS to establish operations instructions to include a requirement to prohibit agency personnel other than those specifically designated from providing data free or in exchange.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to data provided by EDIS on December 7, 1984, Commerce has established operating instructions on the provision of data free or in exchange.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct EDIS to establish operating instructions to include a requirement to establish standard methods for determining what costs will be included to compute prices for services in accordance with existing legal and regulatory requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to a EDIS letter to GAO, the Cost Recovery Task Force reviewed this area and made recommendations. The EDIS follow-up tested the consistency of its cost recovery practices. The review team's recommendations show that standard methods for determining costs have been developed as recommended in the GAO report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should direct EDIS to establish and disseminate operating instructions consistent with Commerce policies regarding user charges and cost recovery and to ensure that a plan for monitoring data center practices is developed and implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EDIS convened a Cost Recovery Task Force to establish operating instructions and develop policies on cost recovery. A EDIS letter shows that Commerce has been monitoring the data center's cost recovery practices. Due to GAO staffing problems, it would not be practical to attempt to determine whether EDIS actions resulted in quantifiable dollar savings.

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