Statistical Agencies:

Adherence to Guidelines and Coordination of Budgets

GGD-95-65: Published: Aug 9, 1995. Publicly Released: Aug 9, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the performance of the Bureaus of the Census, Economic Analysis, and Labor Statistics, and the National Center for Health Statistics based on selected National Academy of Sciences (NAS) guidelines. GAO also provided information on the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) role in coordinating and overseeing the statistical activities of the 72 agencies that constitute the federal statistical system.

GAO found that: (1) the four agencies adhered, with only minor exceptions, to five of the seven selected NAS guidelines; (2) the NAS guidelines emphasize the importance of a statistical agency maintaining the credibility of its data and that it be perceived as free from political interference and policy advocacy; (3) coordination and sharing between federal, state, and local statistical agencies increased their effectiveness and efficiency; (4) in general, each agency had a clearly defined and well-accepted mission statement, cooperated with data users, treated data providers fairly, openly described to users all aspects of its data, and widely disseminated its data; (5) the agencies did not fully adhere to the guideline on protecting their independence from political influence because they did not always sufficiently communicate their procedures to data users; (6) the agencies could not fully coordinate with other statistical agencies because of statute limitations to protect data providers' confidentiality; (7) OMB oversight and coordination of agencies' statistical activities is limited by a lack of staff resources; and (8) OMB is revising its formal process for reviewing statistical agencies' budgets in order to allocate its resources for coordination more effectively.

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