Spending Patterns of the Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government

PAD-80-34: Published: Dec 20, 1979. Publicly Released: Jan 22, 1980.

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GAO was requested to study the spending patterns of the departments and agencies of the Federal Government to determine whether a correlation exists between the utilization of appropriated funds and the time during the year when the funds are spent. Information assembled on gross obligations during fiscal years 1977, 1978, and the first half of 1979 was analyzed by quarter within the fiscal year. The last quarter of the fiscal year was analyzed by month. Data are presented in total for Government-wide gross obligations by departments and agencies, and by the purposes for which funds were obligated in categories such as personal compensation and transportation of persons.

It was found that a disproportionate amount of obligations occurred in the last quarter of the fiscal year, and that a disproportionate amount of obligations was incurred in the last month of the quarter. The analysis showed that not only did agencies differ in the proportion of obligations made at the end of the fiscal year, but that certain agencies had a large proportion of their annual obligations at the end of both fiscal years. Because spending patterns of the funds may be affected by the purposes for which funds are obligated, obligation data were analyzed by object class. Object classes are used by the Office of Management and Budget to classify spending in terms of use. Object classes differed in the proportion of obligations made in the last quarter, and certain object classes had disproportionate year-end obligations in both years. There may be legitimate reasons for the obligation of disproportionate amounts during the end of the fiscal year. While data errors and adjustments must be identified and adjusted before valid conclusions can be drawn, it is believed that these data can be used as a rough gauge of spending patterns.

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