General Services Administration:

Actions Needed to Improve Protection Against Fraud, Waste, and Mismanagement

GGD-92-98: Published: Sep 30, 1992. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 1992.

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GAO reviewed the General Services Administration's (GSA): (1) efforts in control fraud, waste, and mismanagement; (2) implementation and oversight of internal controls; (3) resolution of audit findings and recommendations; (4) Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA) implementation and reporting; (5) GSA functions and activities that pose the greatest risk of losses and inefficiencies.

GAO found that: (1) GSA functions and activities that are especially vulnerable to fraud, waste, or mismanagement include facility acquisitions, building repairs and modernization, telecommunications and automated data processing acquisitions, management information systems, procurements of common-use equipment and supplies, supply depot operations, dispositions of excess or federal property, and management of the government's motor vehicle fleet; (2) GSA internal control and financial management efforts are primarily focused on establishing and improving control structures and processes, rather than the actual implementation, use, and effectiveness of that framework in its activities; (3) the existing GSA audit followup and resolution process has not held GSA units accountable for fully correcting deficiencies identified during audits; and (4) the GSA annual FMFIA report failed to disclose new material weaknesses or nonconformances, and indicated that the agency had only one open material weakness from previous years.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA improved its FMFIA reporting in December 1992. Compared to fiscal years 1990 and 1991 when GSA disclosed no new material weaknesses, GSA's report for fiscal year 1992 disclosed eight new weaknesses. Also, GSA's 1992 FMFIA report disclosed an additional high-risk area needing top-level management attention and, for the first time, identified and summarized external restraints that hamper its overall efficiency and effectiveness.

    Recommendation: As a minimum, the more proactive approach should include more assurance that GSA FMFIA reports disclose all material internal control weaknesses, specify what GSA is doing and anything the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress could do to help address and correct them, and properly characterize the status of previously reported weaknesses.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA has taken actions designed to improve its audit followup/resolution process and issued revised guidance and procedures to its services.

    Recommendation: As a minimum, the more proactive approach should include improvements in the audit followup and resolution process to hold GSA services, regions, and program offices more accountable for ensuring that audit report findings are fully corrected and audit report recommendations are effectively implemented.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA has instituted actions that are designed to improve its financial and program management information systems and its ability to detect and prevent internal control weaknesses. GSA reported public buildings business and program-related information deficiencies and overall financial management deficiencies as material weaknesses in its FMFIA reports. GSA has established special detailed action plans to address and resolve these weaknesses and expects that both of these material weaknesses will be corrected. GAO believes that significant evaluation would be needed to determine if the actions were adequate to resolve the problems identified.

    Recommendation: As a minimum, the more proactive approach should include reintensified efforts to improve the quantity and quality of the automated information systems data GSA needs to more effectively manage and oversee its various activities and programs and prevent and detect material losses, inefficiencies, and other irregularities.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA has reiterated to its services, regions, and staff offices the importance of using audit reports as management tools to improve agency operations. Also, GSA has instituted a trend analysis program designed to identify and better enable it to combat documented internal control problems.

    Recommendation: As a minimum, the more proactive approach should include better utilization of OIG and other available audits, investigations, and studies as management tools to more effectively target and resolve systemic operational problems and potential employee ethics and integrity issues, improve agency operations, and more effectively combat known, documented problems.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA has: (1) asked its Deputy Administrator and Management Control Oversight Council (MCOC) to direct and oversee its implementation of GAO recommendations; (2) reemphasized the importance of sound internal control systems, better audit follow-up and resolution procedures, and more complete Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA) reporting; and (3) revised its guiding audit follow-up and resolution and FMFIA procedures. GSA closed this recommendation on the basis of the actions described above. Because these actions were broad-based, GAO believes that significant evaluation would be needed to determine if they were adequate to resolve the problems identified.

    Recommendation: To enable GSA to more fully protect its operations from fraud, waste, and mismanagement, the Administrator of General Services should make this goal a higher, more clearly stated agencywide priority and adopt and institutionalize a more aggressive, proactive agencywide policy and approach that (1) complements Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and other audits, investigations, and oversight; (2) holds GSA services, regions, and program offices and managers fully accountable for more effective implementation of existing internal controls; and (3) focuses more on the expected outcomes and measurable results of control structures and processes.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA completed management control evaluations for the eight high-risk areas GAO identified and made improvements in nine program areas. GSA's FMFIA annual report for fiscal year 1993 disclosed three new material weaknesses, of which two were in the high-risk areas GAO identified. GSA's FMFIA report for 1992 identified several external obstacles that hampered GSA's overall efficiency and effectiveness. GAO believes that significant evaluation would be needed to determine if these actions were adequate to resolve the problems identified.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should ensure that improved GSA internal control efforts specifically and effectively cover the eight high-risk functions and activities highlighted. For the aspects of these functions and activities that are beyond direct GSA operational control, the Administrator should explore with OMB and Congress actions the government could take to eliminate, or at least reduce, the inefficiencies now associated with them. In this regard, the Administrator may wish to consider disclosing these inefficiencies in GSA FMFIA reports.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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