Computer Matching:

Assessing Its Costs and Benefits

T-PEMD-87-5: Published: Jun 23, 1987. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 1987.

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GAO discussed two reports on the costs and benefits of computer matching, specifically: (1) the methods that can be used to determine whether the benefits of a computer match outweigh the costs; and (2) the factors agencies have taken into account in their decisions to conduct or continue computer matches. GAO found that: (1) there is no established methodology for performing cost-benefit analyses of computer matching, since research in the field is immature and continuing methodological problems have placed the measurement of certain types of costs and benefits beyond the capabilities of routine analysis; (2) federal agencies have generally taken an informal approach to computer matching, and lack specific written criteria and systematic planning procedures for developing and implementing matches; (3) technological capacity, legislative requirements, and broad concern over waste, fraud, and abuse are more prominent in agency decisionmaking than the quantification of costs or benefits; and (4) despite the nonexistence of an established methodology and the immaturity of current research, it is feasible to do useful cost-benefit analyses of computer matches. GAO believes that: (1) all significant costs and benefits must be considered and, if possible, measured; (2) actual rather than projected data should be used in quantifying savings achieved; and (3) it is also important to consider qualitative elements in such analyses, and to detail these elements for all entities potentially affected by a match.

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