Equal Opportunity:

The Offices for Civil Rights in the Departments of Education and HHS Have Improved the Management of Their Civil Rights Enforcement Responsibilities

HRD-82-21: Published: Nov 27, 1981. Publicly Released: Nov 27, 1981.

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GAO conducted a review of the Offices for Civil Rights (OCR's) at the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education to determine whether these new organizations had corrected problems which GAO cited in a March 30, 1977, report. OCR's are responsible for ensuring that recipients of Federal funds administer their respective programs without discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, handicap, or age.

Since the 1977 report, HHS and Education have significantly improved the management of their civil rights enforcement responsibilities. The new OCR's appropriations and authorized staffing levels have remained fairly stable. Both OCR's have increased communications between their headquarters and field staffs and use uniform policy guidelines and compliance standards. Both OCR's will be able to monitor the quantity and quality of their compliance activities. The Department of Health Education and Welfare OCR developed an information system which the new OCR's have adopted and are automating. Although both OCR's currently collect and analyze much of the data manually, they plan to have the system automated in fiscal year 1982. OCR's have improved their working relationships with some program agencies and are trying to devise measures of the benefits of their work. In spite of the improvements both OCR's have made in managing their civil rights enforcement responsibilities, both appear to be overburdened by their complaint workloads. Processing complaints detracts from the time which could be spent on compliance reviews and technical assistance which the OCR's believe would be more comprehensive, more likely to reveal discriminatory practices, and would benefit larger numbers of people. Both OCR's have staffing problems which neither has been able to remedy.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although the recommendation still has merit, the agency does not intend to implement it. Agency officials said the current workload of the Office of Civil Rights is being adequately addressed by the inhouse staff of that office. The present director of the office intends to maintain all compliance and complaint processing work within the HHS central office.

    Recommendation: The Offices for Civil Rights of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education should enlist more program agency resources in their civil rights compliance work.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Although the recommendation still has merit, the agency does not intend to implement it. Agency officials said the current workload of the Office of Civil Rights is being adequately addressed by the inhouse staff of that office. The present director of the office intends to maintain all compliance and complaint processing work within the HHS central office.

    Recommendation: The Offices for Civil Rights of the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education should assist the program agencies in the development of the civil rights portions of their program compliance reviews.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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