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    Subject Term: "Civil rights law enforcement"

    2 publications with a total of 8 open recommendations
    Director: Shames, Lisa R
    Phone: (202)512-2649

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure sufficient oversight and management direction are provided to guide USDA's civil rights efforts, to make responsibility for improvement clear, and to make USDA's performance more transparent, Congress may wish to consider making USDA's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights subject to a statutory performance agreement.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2013, action on a new farm bill is pending and it is not known whether Congress will make the Assistant Secretary subject to a performance agreement.
    Recommendation: To better ensure sufficient oversight and management direction are provided to guide USDA's civil rights efforts, to make responsibility for improvement clear, and to make USDA's performance more transparent, Congress may wish to consider establishing a USDA civil rights oversight board.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2013, action on a new farm bill is pending and it is not known whether Congress will establish a USDA civil rights oversight board.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA efforts to address civil rights issues and the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs, the Secretary of Agriculture should prepare and implement an improvement plan for resolving discrimination complaints that sets time frame goals and provides management controls for resolving complaints from beginning to end.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA has not fully implemented this recommendation. As of August 2012, USDA had developed a plan to improve resolution of discrimination complaints, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) had implemented many of the plan's actions, such as placing priority on processing program complaints facing the statute of limitations. However, USDA had more work to do on (1) establishing an electronic records management system; (2) implementing the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) process; (3) conducting pilot efforts to explore establishing new time frame goals for intake, investigation, and adjudication activities to resolve employee and program complaints; and (4) providing documentation of new policies, procedures, guidance, and training needed to determine if new management controls cover the entire process for resolving complaints. As of September 2013, OASCR's electronic complaints management systems allow OASCR to scan in, store, and retrieve multiple records in a searchable environment. OASCR undertook a review of the program complaint process through LSS, and based on the results, extended the scope of the review to include the employment complaint process. OASCR implemented core changes through LSS that identify efficiencies to reduce time frames. OASCR has established time frame goals for processing program complaints; however, it has yet to establish them for investigating and adjudicating employment complaints. Time frame goals for the entire employment complaint resolution process would have to be final before management controls can be made final.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA efforts to address civil rights issues and the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop and implement a plan to ensure the accuracy, completeness and reliability of ASCR's databases on customer and employee complaints, and that provides for independent validation of ASCR's data quality.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA has not fully implemented this recommendation. As of August 2012, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights' (OASCR) efforts to ensure data reliability of the iComplaints employee complaints database included a comprehensive set of business rules, a data integrity tool, and a quality review management module. Also, OASCR had developed and was implementing a plan to check the accuracy of the data entered for every program complaint in the Program Complaints Management System (PCMS). However, OASCR had not provided all of the documentation needed to assess whether its planned efforts contain key elements to ensure the accuracy, completeness, and reliability of the iComplaints and PCMS databases. For example, OASCR officials had neither provided documentation showing that the office developed departmental policy to ensure the consistent use of iComplaints and PCMS nor training to ensure the completeness of data in PCMS. As of September 2013, OASCR officials provided standard operating procedures (SOPs) for processing program complaints, which include numerous steps to ensure the consistent use of PCMS. OASCR officials also provided SOPs for processing employment complaints; however, the SOPs have not been finalized for the investigation and adjudication phases of the processing and are therefore insufficient to ensure the consistent use of iComplaints. OASCR officials did provide documentation showing that OASCR has established a formal training program to ensure that OASCR and USDA civil rights practitioners are trained in the proper use of PCMS and iComplaints. In addition, the PCMS Data Integrity Team is working to correct discrepancies found as of October 2012. This effort is 85 percent complete.
    Recommendation: To improve USDA efforts to address civil rights issues and the participation of minority farmers and ranchers in USDA programs, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop a results-oriented department-level strategic plan for civil rights at USDA that unifies USDA's departmental approach with that of ASCR and the newly created Office of Advocacy and Outreach and that is transparent about USDA's efforts to address the concerns of stakeholders.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: USDA has not fully implemented this recommendation. As of August 2012, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (OASCR) had not updated its strategic plan since our report was issued in October 2008. From October 1, 2009, to November 20, 2011, OASCR was placed under Departmental Management and during that time was not required to develop or update its own strategic plan, according to OASCR officials. Since November 20, 2011, OASCR has reported directly to the Secretary and has been working to develop its own strategic plan. On July 31, 2012, we obtained a revised draft of OASCR's strategic plan that covers fiscal years 2011-2015. This draft still has a number of shortcomings. For example, it (1) focuses primarily on the activities OASCR plans and does not unify OASCR's approach with the Office of Advocacy and Outreach, other USDA agencies, or the department as a whole; (2) does not describe the viewpoints and interests of USDA's external stakeholders, such as community-based organizations; and (3) does not fully address other key issues identified in our report, such as measuring performance to gauge progress, using performance information for identifying performance gaps and making program improvements, and identifying external and internal factors that can influence the achievement of its long-term goals. As of September 2013, OASCR had, by November 2012, finalized and published its strategic plan for fiscal years 2011-2015. The published plan includes some time frame goals for processing program and employment complaints, but these goals are incomplete. The published plan also includes some minor editorial changes, but otherwise, it was almost identical to the draft plan we reviewed in July 2012 and still has the same shortcomings that we identified at that time.
    Director: Shames, Lisa R
    Phone: (202)512-9692

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help address problems related to FSA foreclosures, the Secretary of Agriculture should develop and promulgate a policy statement that lays out the factors USDA considers in issuing stays of foreclosure in class action lawsuits.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested documentation from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights that would demonstrate this recommendation has been implemented.
    Recommendation: To help address problems related to FSA foreclosures, the Secretary of Agriculture should maintain historic information, by race, on foreclosures completed by FSA.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested documentation from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights that would demonstrate this recommendation has been implemented.
    Recommendation: To help address problems related to FSA foreclosures, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct FSA and OCR to improve communications to ensure that foreclosure actions are not taken against borrowers with pending complaints.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, we have requested documentation from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights that would demonstrate this recommendation has been implemented.