Environmental Protection Agency:

Difficulties in Comparing Annual Budgets for Science and Technology

T-RCED-99-120: Published: Mar 18, 1999. Publicly Released: Mar 18, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) budget justification for its Science and Technology account, and changes among the justifications for fiscal years (FY) 1998, 1999, and 2000, focusing on: (1) difficulties experienced in comparing EPA's Science and Technology budget justification for FY 1999 with those of previous years; and (2) actions that EPA planned and implemented in order to improve the clarity and comparability of the FY 2000 justification, and items that need further clarification.

GAO noted that: (1) EPA's budget justification for FY 1999 could not be readily compared to amounts requested or enacted for FY 1998 and prior years because the justification did not show how the budget would be distributed among program offices or program components--information needed to link to the prior years' justifications; (2) the Office of Management and Budget does not require EPA to provide information to compare the justifications when the format changes; (3) to facilitate such comparisons, agency officials provided supplemental information to congressional committees; (4) because EPA did not maintain financial records by both program components and strategic goals and objectives for all enacted Science and Technology funds for FY 1998, it could not readily provide information for all amounts; (5) at GAO's request, EPA estimated the 1998 enacted amounts so that the 1998 budget could be compared with the FY 1999 request; (6) EPA implemented several changes to its FY 2000 justification to solve problems experienced in comparing the 1998 and 1999 budget justifications; (7) to improve the clarity of its budget justification for FY 2000, EPA included tables that detail, for each objective, how requested amounts are allocated among key programs; (8) backup information is also available that shows the program offices that will be administering the requested funds; (9) the agency also implemented a new accounting system that records budget data by goals and objectives, which enhances reporting financial data by goals and objectives; (10) while the budget justification followed the basic format reflecting the agency's strategic goals and objectives, EPA made changes to the objectives without explanations or documentation to link the changes to the FY 1999 budget justification; (11) for example, funds were allocated from one objective to other objectives without identifying the objectives or amounts, funds that included money transferred from another account were shown as Science and Technology funds, and changes were made to the number or wording of objectives without explanations; and (12) as a result, the FY 2000 budget justification cannot be completely compared with the FY 1999 justification without supplemental information.

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