Trade Adjustment:

Funding Status of Commerce's Trade Adjustment Assistance Program

NSIAD-90-247: Published: Sep 6, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 9, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Department of Commerce's Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, focusing on: (1) the adequacy of funding for trade adjustment assistance centers; (2) the accuracy and usefulness of Commerce's February 22, 1990 report to Congress; and (3) operational constraints during fiscal years 1989 and 1990.

GAO found that: (1) disagreement existed within Commerce over whether there was adequate funding for the 12 trade adjustment assistance centers; (2) approximately half of the reported total funds available consisted of unliquidated obligations; (3) centers inconsistently reported committed funds in quarterly budget reports; (4) Commerce's report to Congress made the centers appear to have more funds than they did, due to deletions of explanatory footnotes regarding the extent of unliquidated obligations and reserves; (5) delays in Commerce's release of 1989 and 1990 appropriated funds caused service disruptions and lowered the centers' credibility in the business community; and (6) 11 of the 12 centers had insufficient funds to last until the end of the fiscal year.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Commerce did not provide separate guidance to centers as recommended. Instead, Commerce cited Senate Appropriations Committee guidance from the fiscal year 1991 appropriations process. These recommendations should be closed because there has been an absence of congressional disapproval of Commerce's handing of this program since the GAO report.

    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Under Secretary, International Trade Administration (ITA) to provide the trade adjustment assistance centers with additional guidance on how to prepare their financial reports to ensure that unliquidated obligations and reserves for contingencies are properly recorded and reported.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO recommended that Commerce separately itemize in any future reports to Congress the amounts of unliquidated obligations and reserves for close-out purposes. The latest report to Congress did not break out these amounts. These recommendations should be closed because there has been an absence of congressional disapproval of Commerce's handling of this program since the GAO report.

    Recommendation: To improve the administration of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the Under Secretary, ITA, to separately itemize in any future reports to Congress on the status of Trade Adjustment Assistance Program funds the amount of unliquidated obligations and reserves being held for close-out purposes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

 

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