The Results Act:

Observations on the Railroad Retirement Board's September 1997 Strategic Plan

HEHS-98-13R: Published: Nov 6, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 6, 1997.

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Jane L. Ross
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Railroad Retirement Board's (RRB) September 1997 strategic plan, focusing on: (1) RRB's compliance with the Results Act's requirements and the plan's overall quality; (2) whether the plan reflects RRB's key statutory responsibilities; (3) whether the plan identifies crosscutting functions and plans for coordination with other departments and agencies; and (4) whether the plan addresses major RRB management challenges and its capacity to provide reliable information about its performance.

GAO noted that: (1) RRB has formally issued a plan that describes its programs, contains all six elements required by the Results Act, and reflects the agency's key statutory responsibilities; (2) this plan is clearer and more specific than the draft in several key areas; (3) RRB has included in the plan a matrix of external factors and their potential effect, added a table of its planned program evaluation activities and an implementation schedule, and discussed its relationship with other agencies and noted that it had provided its plan to a number of agencies for comment; (4) RRB's objectives in its formally issued plan continue to be unclear, making it difficult to determine how RRB will assess whether they are being achieved; (5) independent auditors have identified serious problems with RRB's financial management systems, pointing to material weaknesses in the agency's internal controls and issuing a disclaimer of opinion on RRB's financial statements since 1993; (6) by discussing the agency's financial management problems, RRB has significantly improved its formally issued plan. thus making it more realistic than the draft; (7) the plan still does not fully disclose serious and fundamental problems identified in recent audits, such as inadequate controls over benefit payments and the lack of auditable financial statements; and (8) resolving these problems will be critical to the agency's achieving its goals.

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