Child Support Enforcement:

Timely Action Needed to Correct System Development Problems

IMTEC-92-46: Published: Aug 13, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 14, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Health and Human Services' oversight of states' efforts to develop automated systems for child support enforcement programs, focusing on the Office of Child Support Enforcement's (OCSE) actions.

GAO found that: (1) by law, the federal government may pay up to 90 percent of a state's total costs for developing, installing or improving statewide automated child support systems; (2) when its system is complete and certified as meeting requirements, a state may receive additional funding for operational costs; (3) states must have fully operational and certified systems by October 1, 1995, at which time development funding will end, and states may be subject to additional funding reductions; (4) OCSE is responsible for continually monitoring automated systems development and installation to ensure that systems meet federal requirements, and can suspend further federal funding for systems that do not; (5) although OCSE has taken some corrective steps, its oversight of state systems is inadequate; (6) OCSE has allowed some states to continue to receive funding without correcting known system problems; and (7) in monitoring state systems, OCSE does not always use or act on OCSE audit reports that identify deficiencies.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The HHS Office of Child Support Enforcement believes that its actions have been timely, but it also acknowledges that it has the authority to suspend projects, and will do so in the future, if warranted. The agency will be the subject of a follow-on review, so GAO will close this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Director, OCSE, should require states to implement needed corrective actions for federally funded systems when problems are first identified.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Child Support Enforcement

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The HHS Office of Child Support Enforcement believes that its actions have been timely, but it also acknowledges that it has the authority to suspend projects, and will do so in the future, if warranted. The agency will be the subject of a follow-on review, so GAO will close this recommendation.

    Recommendation: In those instances in which major problems endanger the system's success or prevent it from meeting federal program requirements, the Director, OCSE, should use existing authority to suspend further federal funding until the state can demonstrate that it has corrected the problems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Child Support Enforcement

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS has taken action to address improved collaboration between OCSE audit and system divisions.

    Recommendation: The Director, OCSE, should establish and implement a policy requiring the systems division to pursue resolution of system deficiencies identified by the office of audit, as part of its oversight of states' development of automated systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Office of Child Support Enforcement

 

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