Computer Matching:

Quality of Decisions and Supporting Analyses Little Affected by 1988 Act

PEMD-94-2: Published: Oct 18, 1993. Publicly Released: Nov 29, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated how well federal agencies are conducting computer matching programs, focusing on: (1) the planning and processing of computer matching programs; and (2) how federal agencies are implementing the cost-benefit requirement for computer matches.

GAO found that: (1) the quality of computer matching cost-benefit analyses needs improvement; (2) agencies either have not developed cost-benefit estimates or have estimated costs but not benefits; (3) there is little support for the agencies' cost and benefit estimates, since agencies include only some of their direct, quantifiable costs and benefits in their analyses; (4) the costs and benefits to other agencies and the public are often missing from the analyses, and qualitative costs and benefits are not well documented; (5) agencies are using substantially different methodologies to identify and calculate costs and benefits since the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has not issued specific guidance to agencies on conducting cost-benefit analyses; (6) agencies are not providing full and earnest reviews of proposed matches; (7) newly established data integrity boards have not cancelled ongoing matching programs or have refused to approve proposed matching programs as a result of the new process; (8) there is no evidence that data integrity boards use privacy requirements to determine if a match should be approved; and (9) the implementation of new computer matching procedures has not affected the most important review process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No action is intended.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should expedite the publication of minimum standard criteria for cost-benefit analyses, identifying which specific cost and benefit elements must be included.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No action is intended.

    Recommendation: The Director, OMB, should direct agencies to establish procedures to track costs concurrently and measure costs and benefits retrospectively to determine whether estimated benefits are actually achieved, especially in cases where costs are high in relation to benefits or for those matches where the benefits appear to be the greatest.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

 

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