Employee Drug Testing:

Opportunities Exist to Lower Drug-Testing Program Costs

GGD-93-13: Published: Nov 23, 1992. Publicly Released: Dec 29, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the costs associated with federal employee drug testing and determined whether the potential for cost savings exists.

GAO found that: (1) the costs incurred from federal agency employee drug testing result from meeting the Department of Health and Human Services' scientific and technical guidelines and the frequency of actual testing; (2) the potential cost savings included eliminating the requirement of submitting negative test results to a medical review officer, reducing requirements pertaining to drug-testing laboratory quality assurance programs, reducing the frequency of random drug testing, and collecting employee specimens with in-house personnel rather than contracting out for the service; (3) agency random drug testing varied in frequency from 4 to 100 percent; (4) positive test results remained constant regardless of the frequency of tests; (5) on the average, positive test results represented 0.3 percent of those employees tested; and (6) reducing the frequency of drug tests could potentially save $1 million.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 1994, HHS revised its drug testing guidelines and reduced the required rate of proficiency testing, per the recommendation. ONDCP and HHS do not intend to implement the first part of the recommendation. Since the majority of the potential dollar savings will be achieved from the part of the recommendation implemented, GAO believes the recommendation has been substantially implemented.

    Recommendation: To increase the cost-effectiveness of federal employee drug testing, the Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the Secretary of Health and Human Services together should consider the feasibility of: (1) eliminating from existing guidance the requirement that negative test results be submitted for medical review; and (2) reducing the required rate of blind proficiency testing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 1994, HHS revised its drug testing guidelines and reduced the required rate of proficiency testing, per the recommendations. It does not intend to implement the first part of the recommendation. Because the large majority of dollar savings potential will be achieved through the portion of the recommendation implemented, GAO believes the recommendation has been substantially implemented.

    Recommendation: To increase the cost-effectiveness of federal employee drug testing, the Director, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the Secretary of Health and Human Services together should consider the feasibility of: (1) eliminating from existing guidance the requirement that negative test results be submitted for medical review; and (2) reducing the required rate of blind proficiency testing.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Agencies have this discretion. Agency downsizing and budget cuts make this recommendation less applicable.

    Recommendation: The Director, ONDCP, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with drug-testing agencies to consider the feasibility of collecting drug-testing samples with agency personnel rather than contracting out for this service.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Agencies have this discretion. Agency downsizing and budget cuts make this recommendation less applicable.

    Recommendation: The Director, ONDCP, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with drug-testing agencies to consider the feasibility of collecting drug-testing samples with agency personnel rather than contracting out for this service.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: ONDCP has chosen to continue to allow agencies to use their discretion.

    Recommendation: The Director, ONDCP, should work with drug-testing agencies to consider modifications to their selected frequency levels of employee drug testing.

    Agency Affected: Office of National Drug Control Policy

 

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