Observations on Oversight Reform

PAD-81-17: Published: Jan 1, 1981. Publicly Released: Jan 1, 1981.

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GAO summarized and consolidated the statements it made to congressional committees on oversight reform during the 96th Congress.

The positions are grouped under three main subjects: (1) critical elements that should be part of any comprehensive oversight reform legislation; (2) GAO positions on some specific issues related to oversight reform; and (3) opportunities for better oversight under existing legislation. For Congress to take advantage of these opportunities, it needs to establish a more systematic approach to oversight by enacting workable sunset review legislation. Such legislation does not guarantee success. Success will depend upon the commitment of the leaders and participants to the goals of the reform. New laws can only create mechanisms and procedures which will permit this commitment to be effectively translated into action. Congress, the Executive, and ultimately the Nation must: (1) think, debate, and act with a long-range perspective because the full implication of policies often is not felt for several years or decades; (2) focus more of their analyses, debates, and actions on broad policies and groups of interrelated programs; (3) try harder to analyze the probable effects of policy changes before they are implemented; (4) be more specific and realistic when setting goals and expectations for policies, programs, and administrative reforms; (5) grant administrators the authority and resources needed to render congressional goals and expectations plausible or to revise them to fit available resources; (6) establish evaluating and reporting procedures; (7) structure iterative management processes; and (8) act promptly to make changes when needed.

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