Legal Services Corporation:

More Needs to be Done to Correct Case Service Reporting Problems

T-GGD-99-185: Published: Sep 29, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 29, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the two reviews that it has completed pertaining to case service reporting (CSR) by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), focusing on: (1) what efforts LSC and its grantees have made to correct case reporting problems; and (2) whether these efforts are likely to resolve the case reporting problems that occurred in 1997.

GAO noted that: (1) LSC issued a new, 1999 CSR Handbook and distributed other written communications intended to clarify reporting requirements to its grantees; (2) the 1999 Handbook, which replaced the 1993 edition, instituted changes to some of LSC's reporting requirements and provided more detailed information on other requirements; (3) in responding to a GAO telephone survey, most grantees indicated that the new guidance helped clarify LSC's reporting requirements, and virtually all of them indicated that they had or planned to make program changes as a result of the requirements; (4) many grantees, however, identified areas of case reporting that remained unclear to them; (5) the 1999 CSR Handbook included changes to: (a) procedures for timely closing of cases; (b) procedures for management review of case service reports; (c) procedures for ensuring single recording of cases; (d) requirements to report LSC-eligible cases, regardless of funding source; and (e) requirements for reporting cases involving private attorneys separately; (6) based on GAO's survey of executive directors of 79 grantees, GAO estimates that over 90 percent of grantee executive directors viewed the changes in the 1999 CSR Handbook as being clear overall, and virtually all of them indicated that they planned to or had made at least one change to their program operations as a result of the revised case reporting requirements; (7) although most of the grantee executive directors reported that the new LSC guidance helped clarify requirements, many of them also indicated that they were still unclear about certain requirements and that additional clarification was needed; (8) LSC sought to determine the accuracy of grantees' case data by requiring that grantees complete self-inspections of their open and closed caseload data for 1998; (9) on May 14, 1999, LSC issued a memo to all grantees instructing them to complete a self-inspection procedure by July 1, 1999; (10) according to LSC officials, about three-fourths of the grantees certified the accuracy of their 1998 case data; (11) as of August 26, 1999, LSC documents indicated that 199 of 261 grantees reported substantially correct CSR data to LSC; (12) the remaining 62 grantees did not certify to LSC that their CSR data were substantially correct; and (13) GAO's review raised some concerns about LSC's interpretation of the self-inspection results and about the accuracy of the data provided to LSC by grantees.

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