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    Subject Term: "Legal counsel"

    20 publications with a total of 67 open recommendations including 9 priority recommendations
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    11 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better address current and future staffing needs, the Director of EOIR should develop and implement a strategic workforce plan that addresses, among other areas, key principles of effective strategic workforce planning, including (1) determining critical skills and competencies needed to achieve current and future programmatic results; (2) developing strategies that are tailored to address gaps in number, deployment, and alignment of human capital approaches for enabling and sustaining the contributions of all critical skills and competencies; and (3) monitoring and evaluation of the agency's progress toward its human capital goals and the contribution that human capital results have made toward achieving programmatic results.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR officials reported that its Immigration Court Staffing Committee, established in April 2017, would, among other things, examine how to best leverage the judicial and court staff workload model to address its short- and long-term staffing needs, assess the critical skills and competencies needed to achieve future programmatic results, and develop strategies to address human capital gaps. This committee expects to complete its work in March 2018. EOIR also reported that it is developing an agency-wide strategic plan that includes human capital planning as a critical component, which will be used to guide workforce planning for the entire agency. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR's Immigration Court Staffing Committee should complete its work and provide documentation demonstrating that it: 1) addressed the agency's short- and long-term staffing needs; 2) identified the critical skills and competencies needed to achieve future programmatic results; and 3) developed strategies to address human capital gaps. EOIR should also provide documentation, including the completed strategic plan, describing how the agency tailored its human capital strategies to address gaps in the number, deployment, and alignment of human capital approaches; and is monitoring and evaluating the agency's progress toward its human capital goals.
    Recommendation: To better address EOIR's immigration judge staffing needs, the Director of EOIR should: (1) assess the immigration judge hiring process to identify opportunities for efficiency; (2) use the assessment results to develop a hiring strategy that targets short- and long-term human capital needs; and (3) implement any corrective actions related to the hiring process resulting from this assessment.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it is actively implementing a new streamlined hiring plan that aims to reduce the hiring timeline. According to EOIR, this revised hiring plan, among other things, sets clear deadlines for assessing applicants moving through different stages of the process and for making decisions on advancing applicants to the next stage, as well as allows for temporary appointments for all selected judges pending full background investigations. EOIR stated that it will use this revised process in the future to fill judge vacancies. Regarding the development of a hiring strategy, EOIR stated that it recognizes the importance of assessing immigration judge hiring needs holistically to continue to develop an overall immigration judge hiring strategy, and will utilize a planned human capital strategy and additional data to further refine the hiring process. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue its efforts to assess and improve its hiring process and provide documentation describing: 1) its new hiring process, including how EOIR assessed the prior hiring process to identify opportunities for efficiency; 2) its hiring strategy targeting short- and long-term human capital needs; and (3) the corrective actions EOIR implemented in response to the assessment results, such as eliminating procedures that increased the length of the hiring process.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that EOIR meets its cost and schedule expectations for EOIR Courts and Appeals Systems (ECAS), the EOIR Director should identify and establish the appropriate entity for exercising oversight over ECAS through full implementation.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, EOIR reported that it had selected the EOIR Investment Review Board to serve as the ECAS oversight body with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) directly responsible for the management of the ECAS program. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should provide documentation related to this decision.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that EOIR meets its cost and schedule expectations for ECAS, the EOIR Director should document and implement an oversight plan that is consistent with best practices for overseeing IT projects, including (1) establishing how the oversight body is to monitor program performance and progress toward expected cost, schedule, and benefits; (2) ensuring that corrective actions are identified and assigned to the appropriate parties at the first sign of cost, schedule, or performance slippages; and (3) ensuring that corrective actions are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 2017, EOIR reported that it had selected the EOIR Investment Review Board to serve as the ECAS oversight body with the Office of Information Technology (OIT) directly responsible for the management of the ECAS program. According to EOIR, OIT will record on a weekly basis all financial metrics, risks, issues, and corrective actions in EOIR's project management tool, as well as regularly evaluating the program's performance and progress and immediately implementing any needed corrective actions. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should document and implement an oversight plan that describes how the EOIR Investment Review Board and OIT will oversee the full implementation of ECAS, including how these bodies will, consistent with best practices for overseeing IT projects: 1) monitor program performance and progress toward expected cost, schedule, and benefits; (2) ensure that corrective actions are identified and assigned to the appropriate parties at the first sign of cost, schedule, or performance slippages; and (3) ensure that corrective actions are tracked until the desired outcomes are achieved.
    Recommendation: To provide further assurance that EOIR's use of video teleconference (VTC) in immigration hearings is outcome-neutral, the Director of EOIR should collect more complete and reliable data on the number and type of hearings it conducts through VTC.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it is studying how to collect more complete and reliable data on the number and type of hearings it conducts through video teleconference (VTC). To fully address this recommendation, once EOIR determines how to collect more complete and reliable VTC hearing data, EOIR should provide documentation describing its approach and evidence of its implementation.
    Recommendation: To provide further assurance that EOIR's use of VTC in immigration hearings is outcome-neutral, the Director of EOIR should collect data on appeals in which the use of VTC formed some basis for the appeal, and the number of in-person hearing motions filed.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it is planning a pilot project to collect data on the number and type of appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) in which the use of video teleconference (VTC) formed an element of the basis for the appeal. EOIR expects to begin this 6-month pilot project in the first quarter of fiscal year 2018. Additionally, EOIR stated that it will assess the feasibility of collecting data on the number of filed motions requesting an in-person hearing instead of a VTC hearing. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue these efforts and begin systematically collecting data on appeals in which the use of VTC formed some basis for the appeal and the number of in-person hearing motions filed.
    Recommendation: To provide further assurance that EOIR's use of VTC in immigration hearings is outcome-neutral, the Director of EOIR should use these and other data to assess any effects of VTC on immigration hearings and, as appropriate, address any issues identified through such an assessment.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it intends to analyze data on appeals in which the use of VTC formed some basis for the appeal from the Board of Immigration Appeals' pilot program as well as other data to further assess any effects of video teleconference (VTC) usage on immigration hearings. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should, pending the results of the pilot program, use these and other data to assess any effects of VTC on immigration hearings and, as appropriate, address any issues identified through such an assessment.
    Recommendation: To further ensure that EOIR's VTC hearings meet all user needs and help EOIR identify and address technical issues with VTC hearings, the Director of EOIR should develop and implement a mechanism to solicit and monitor feedback from respondents regarding their satisfaction and experiences with VTC hearings, including the audio and visual quality of the hearing.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it partially agreed with this recommendation and would create a mechanism to solicit open-ended feedback from respondents regarding their satisfaction and experience with video teleconference (VTC) hearings, including the audio and visual quality of the hearing. EOIR reported that it is exploring and expects to implement some options by the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, such as a feedback portal on the EOIR website, a dedicated e-mail box, or a comment card for distribution to respondents at immigration courts and detention centers where VTC hearings are held. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue to explore and implement a mechanism to solicit and monitor feedback from respondents regarding their satisfaction and experiences with VTC hearings, including the audio and visual quality of the hearing.
    Recommendation: To better assess court performance and use data to identify potential management challenges, the Director of EOIR should establish and monitor comprehensive case completion goals, including a goal for completing non-detained cases not currently captured by performance measures, and goals for cases it considers a priority.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it agrees that the agency should measure case completions in all categories and is evaluating the best way to measure its courts' performance to improve efficiency and productivity. Additionally, EOIR reported that it is working with the immigration judges' union to conduct this assessment and expects to complete this evaluation and begin working toward making any changes to its performance assessment system by the second quarter of fiscal year 2018. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue these efforts and establish and monitor comprehensive case completion goals, including a goal for completing non-detained cases not currently captured by performance measures, and goals for cases it considers a priority.
    Recommendation: To better assess court performance and use data to identify potential management challenges, the Director of EOIR should systematically analyze immigration court continuance data to identify and address any operational challenges faced by courts or areas for additional guidance or training.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it will further analyze continuance data to identify and address operational challenges as well as determine areas where immigration judges might benefit from additional guidance or training on the use of continuances. EOIR plans to prepare new reports assessing continuance data by the first quarter of fiscal year 2018. Additionally, EOIR reported that it anticipates releasing a new Operating Policies and Procedures Memorandum addressing the appropriate use of continuances in August 2017. To fully address this recommendation, EOIR should continue to systematically analyze continuance data to identify any operational challenges faced by courts or areas for additional guidance or training, and address any challenges through taking actions such as issuing the new memorandum on continuances.
    Recommendation: To better assess court performance and use data to identify potential management challenges, the Director of EOIR should update policies and procedures to ensure the timely and accurate recording of Notices to Appear.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EOIR stated that it partially agreed with this recommendation and will continue to monitor the timeliness and accuracy of NTA recording and implement corrective actions as needed. Additionally, EOIR stated that it will explore the need to create new guidance for immigration court staff to address instances where EOIR exceeds average recording times timeframes in the future. To fully implement this recommendation, EOIR should update its policies and procedures to better ensure the timely and accurate recording of NTAs, and thus provide greater assurance that EOIR's case management data are accurate, including case completion times and the size of its case backlog.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help identify what domestic CVE efforts are to achieve and the extent to which investments in CVE result in measureable success, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General--as heads of the two lead agencies responsible for coordinating CVE efforts--should direct the CVE Task Force to develop a cohesive strategy that includes measurable outcomes for CVE activities.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, CVE Task Force officials stated that they are identifying concrete outputs and outcomes for CVE efforts outlined in the 2016 Strategic Implementation Plan. CVE Task Force officials also stated that they plan to develop short-term, medium-term, and long-term outcomes for these efforts. The Task Force plans to report to the White House Homeland Security Advisor on their implementation progress in January 2018. GAO will continue to monitor the CVE Task Force's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To help identify what domestic CVE efforts are to achieve and the extent to which investments in CVE result in measureable success, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General--as heads of the two lead agencies responsible for coordinating CVE efforts--should direct the CVE Task Force to develop a cohesive strategy that includes measurable outcomes for CVE activities.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, CVE Task Force officials stated that they are identifying concrete outputs and outcomes for CVE efforts outlined in the 2016 Strategic Implementation Plan. CVE Task Force officials also stated that they plan to develop short-term, medium-term, and long-term outcomes for these efforts. The Task Force plans to report to the White House Homeland Security Advisor on their implementation progress in January 2018. GAO will continue to monitor the CVE Task Force's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To help identify what domestic CVE efforts are to achieve and the extent to which investments in CVE result in measureable success, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General--as heads of the two lead agencies responsible for coordinating CVE efforts--should direct the CVE Task Force to establish and implement a process to assess overall progress in CVE, including its effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, CVE Task Force officials stated that they have begun consulting with departments and agencies that have already invested in CVE program assessment and are developing a research-based framework for designing and assessing CVE metrics. The CVE Task Force plans to report to the White House Homeland Security Advisor on their implementation progress in January 2018. GAO will continue to monitor the CVE Task Force's progress in this area.
    Recommendation: To help identify what domestic CVE efforts are to achieve and the extent to which investments in CVE result in measureable success, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Attorney General--as heads of the two lead agencies responsible for coordinating CVE efforts--should direct the CVE Task Force to establish and implement a process to assess overall progress in CVE, including its effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, CVE Task Force officials stated that they have begun consulting with departments and agencies that have already invested in CVE program assessment and are developing a research-based framework for designing and assessing CVE metrics. The CVE Task Force plans to report to the White House Homeland Security Advisor on their implementation progress in January 2018. GAO will continue to monitor the CVE Task Force's progress in this area.
    Director: Gretta L. Goodwin
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOJ is contributing to efforts to improve data collection and service provision to Native Americans, the Director of OVW should require grantees to report the number of human trafficking victims served using grant funding, and, as appropriate, the Native American status of those victims.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs: Violence Against Women Office
    Status: Open

    Comments: In responding to a draft of our report, DOJ agreed to require their grantees to report the number of human trafficking victims served, but did not agree to require them to track Native American status of those victims as appropriate, citing victim confidentiality and other reasons. In June 2017, following our report's publication, DOJ provided a status update, reporting that OVW already collects consolidated data on the number of American Indian and Alaska Native victims served who are victims of all crimes and it is in the process of revising grantee forms to collect information on the number of people served who are victims of sex trafficking. We continue to believe that collecting grantee information on both the number and Native American status of victims served is important and will continue to monitor implementation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOJ is contributing to efforts to improve data collection and service provision to Native Americans, the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs should direct OVC and OJJDP to require their grantees to report the number of human trafficking victims served using grant funding, and, as appropriate, the Native American status of those victims.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs
    Status: Open

    Comments: In responding to a draft of our report, DOJ agreed to require its grantees to report the number of human trafficking victims served, but did not agree to require them to track Native American status of those victims as appropriate, citing victim confidentiality and other reasons. In June 2017, following our report's publication, DOJ provided a status update, reporting that OJJDP human trafficking grantees will be required to report the number of human trafficking victims served, beginning with progress reports ending December 31, 2017, and that OJJDP will update applicable solicitations beginning in fiscal year 2018 to reflect this new measure. DOJ reported no new efforts from OVC, and maintained that it will not require grantees to report on the Native American status of their victims served using grant funding because of the concerns it cited initially. We continue to believe that collecting grantee information on both the number and Native American status of victims served is important and will continue to monitor implementation.
    Director: Rebecca Gambler
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better assess whether the LOP and LOPC are having a measurable impact in meeting their program objectives, the Director of EOIR should develop and implement a system of performance measures, including establishing a baseline, to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of LOP and LOPC and assess whether the programs are achieving their stated goals.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Executive Office for Immigration Review
    Status: Open

    Comments: In January 2017, EOIR reported that the agency is working with a contractor to redesign EOIR's performance management system consistent with the principles outlined in the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act of 2010. In addition, EOIR reported that staff from its Office of Legal Access Programs (OLAP) plan to participate in strategic planning training, which will include how to establish performance measurements. To fully address the recommendation, EOIR should develop and implement a system of performance measures for LOP and LOPC, including establishing a baseline, and assess program performance against such measures.
    Director: Valerie Melvin
    Phone: (202) 512-6304

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide greater transparency in the reporting of FOIA litigation costs, Congress could consider requiring Justice to provide a cost estimate for collecting and reporting information on costs incurred when defending lawsuits in which the plaintiffs prevailed.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has not yet considered if it plans to amend FOIA regarding the reporting of costs for defending lawsuits in which the plaintiffs prevailed.
    Recommendation: Congress could consider amending the act to require Justice to reflect in its Litigation and Compliance reports, changes in the award of attorneys' fees and costs resulting from the appeals process and settlement agreements between agencies and plaintiffs, if deemed to be cost-effective.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Congress has not yet considered if it plans to amend FOIA to require Justice to make changes to its Litigation and Compliance reports.
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    7 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that USPTO's collaborative efforts on classification help examiners find relevant prior art, USPTO should work with the European Patent Office (EPO) to identify a target level of consistency of Cooperative Patent Classification decisions between USPTO and EPO and develop a plan to monitor consistency to achieve the target.

    Agency: Department of Commerce: Patent and Trademark Office
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to the agency's action plan, USPTO has begun ongoing meetings with EPO on quality assurance. USPTO aims to agree to a target level, develop and deploy any needed IT, and begin monitoring and implementing corrective actions by first quarter of 2019.
    Recommendation: To ensure that USPTO is able to take full advantage of its investment in new information technology tools and capabilities, USPTO should develop and periodically update a documented strategy to identify key sources of nonpatent literature for individual technology centers and to assess the optimal means of providing access to these sources, such as including them in USPTO's search system.

    Agency: Department of Commerce: Patent and Trademark Office
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to the agency's action plan, USPTO will begin assessing nonpatent literature usage and develop a strategy for optimizing its usage by November 2017.
    Recommendation: To improve its monitoring of prior art searches and provide USPTO the ability to examine and address trends in prior art search quality at the technology center level, USPTO should develop written guidance on what constitutes a thorough prior art search within each technology field (i.e., mechanical, chemical, electrical), technology center, art area, or art unit, as appropriate, and establish goals and indicators for improving prior art searches.

    Agency: Department of Commerce: Patent and Trademark Office
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to the agency's action plan, USPTO will establish goals and indicators for prior art searches by December 2017.
    Recommendation: To improve its monitoring of prior art searches and provide USPTO the ability to examine and address trends in prior art search quality at the technology center level, USPTO should ensure that sufficient information is collected in reviews of prior art searches to assess the quality of searches at the technology center level, including how often examiners search for U.S. patents, foreign patents, and nonpatent literature.

    Agency: Department of Commerce: Patent and Trademark Office
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to the agency's action plan, USPTO will complete an evaluation of the master review form used to collect information on prior art search by April 2017 and will have performed a sufficient number of reviews by September 2017 to assess search quality at the technology center level.
    Recommendation: To improve its monitoring of prior art searches and provide USPTO the ability to examine and address trends in prior art search quality at the technology center level, USPTO should use the audits and supervisory reviews to monitor the thoroughness of examiners' prior art searches and improvements over time.

    Agency: Department of Commerce: Patent and Trademark Office
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to the agency's action plan, USPTO will develop metrics for prior art search quality and processes to incorporate information learned from these metrics by June 2017.
    Recommendation: To ensure that examiners have sufficient time to conduct a thorough prior art search, USPTO should, in conjunction with implementing the recommendation from our patent quality report to analyze the time examiners need to perform a thorough examination, specifically assess the time examiners need to conduct a thorough prior art search for different technologies.

    Agency: Department of Commerce: Patent and Trademark Office
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to the agency's action plan, USPTO will complete analyses of examiner's required duties and current time expectancies and determine what, if any, additional time should be given by September 2017.
    Recommendation: To ensure that examiners have the technical competence needed to complete thorough prior art searches, USPTO should assess whether the technical competencies of examiners in each technology center match those necessary; develop strategies to address any gaps identified, such as a technical training strategy; and establish measures to monitor progress toward closing any gaps.

    Agency: Department of Commerce: Patent and Trademark Office
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to the agency's action plan, USPTO will develop assessment tools and plans to address any gaps identified, as well as measure progress towards closing any gaps by December 2017.
    Director: Diana C. Maurer
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help determine if pretrial diversion programs and practices are effectively contributing to the achievement of department goals and enhance DOJ's ability to better manage and encourage the use of such programs and practices, the Attorney General should identify, obtain, and track data on the outcomes and costs of pretrial diversion programs.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, DOJ concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken any actions necessary to implement it.
    Recommendation: To help determine if pretrial diversion programs and practices are effectively contributing to the achievement of department goals and enhance DOJ's ability to better manage and encourage the use of such programs and practices, the Attorney General should develop performance measures by which to help assess program outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, DOJ concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken any actions necessary to implement it.
    Recommendation: To determine how the use of RRCs and home confinement contribute to its goal of helping inmates successfully reenter society, and to better enable BOP to adjust its policies and procedures for the optimal use of these alternatives, as necessary and within statutory requirements, the Director of BOP should identify, obtain, and track data on the outcomes of the programs.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Bureau of Prisons
    Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, DOJ concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken any actions necessary to implement it.
    Recommendation: To determine how the use of RRCs and home confinement contribute to its goal of helping inmates successfully reenter society, and to better enable BOP to adjust its policies and procedures for the optimal use of these alternatives, as necessary and within statutory requirements, the Director of BOP should develop performance measures by which to help assess program outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Bureau of Prisons
    Status: Open

    Comments: In providing comments on this report, DOJ concurred with this recommendation but has not yet taken any actions necessary to implement it.
    Director: Valerie C. Melvin
    Phone: (202) 512-6304

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve DOL's management of FOIA requests, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to establish a time frame for implementing, and take actions to implement, section 508 requirements in the department's FOIA system and online portal.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the Department of Labor had provided a response regarding its actions to address our recommendation. We have not yet verified if the actions meet the intent of our recommendation. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve DOL's management of FOIA requests, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to establish a time frame for implementing, and take actions to fully implement, recommended best practice capabilities for enhanced processing of requests in the department's FOIA system and online portal.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the Department of Labor had provided a response regarding its actions to address our recommendation. We have not yet verified if the actions taken meet the intent of our recommendations. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve DOL's management of FOIA requests, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to require components to document in the Secretary's Information Management System for FOIA the rationales for delays in responding to FOIA requests, and to notify requesters of the delayed responses when processing requests.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the Department of Labor had provided a response regarding its actions to address our recommendation. We have not yet verified if the actions taken meet the intent of our recommendations. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve DOL's management of FOIA requests, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to establish a time frame for consulting with the Department of Justice's Office of Information Policy on including language in DOL's response letters to administrative appeals notifying requesters of the National Archives and Records Administration's Office of Government Information Services' mediation services as an alternative to litigation, and then ensure that the department includes the language in the letters.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, the Department of Labor had provided a response regarding its actions to address our recommendation. We have not yet verified if the actions taken meet the intent of our recommendations. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken we will provide updated information.
    Director: Jessica Farb
    Phone: (202) 512-6991

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure effective implementation of the strategic objective of the Weapons Chapter of the Strategy, the ONDCP Director should establish a more comprehensive indicator, or set of indicators, that more accurately reflects progress made by ATF and ICE in meeting the strategic objective.

    Agency: Office of National Drug Control Policy
    Status: Open

    Comments: As part of ONDCP's comments on our draft report, the agency concurred with our recommendation to establish a more comprehensive set of indicators for the Weapons Chapter of the National Southwest Border Counternarcotic Strategy. ONDCP indicated that it would work with ICE and ATF to develop additional indicators to evaluate their progress. ONDCP agreed that the indicators developed through this collaborative process would be used in future iterations of the Strategy. However, in its July 26, 2017 letter to the relevant congressional committees leadership ONDCP explained that a decision has not been made on whether a new iteration of Strategy will be released, or if the current Administration will take different approach to address this issue. We will need to wait until an update of the Strategy is available for us to review to determine if our recommendation has been implemented.
    Director: Jennifer Grover
    Phone: (202) 512-7141

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct ODAG to document a plan specifying DOJ's process for monitoring the effects of marijuana legalization under state law, in accordance with DOJ's 2013 marijuana enforcement policy guidance, to include the identification of the various data ODAG will use and their potential limitations for monitoring the effects of state marijuana legalization, and how ODAG will use the information sources in its monitoring efforts to help inform decisions on whether state systems are effectively protecting federal marijuana enforcement priorities.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency concurred with the recommendation and reported plans to implement it. Subsequent to the agency stating that it has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct ODAG to use existing mechanisms to share DOJ's monitoring plan with appropriate officials from DOJ components responsible for providing information DOJ reports using regarding the effects of state legalization to ODAG, obtain feedback, and incorporate the feedback into its plan.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open

    Comments: The agency concurred with the recommendation and reported plans to implement it. Subsequent to the agency stating that it has taken action, we plan to verify whether implementation has occurred.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide more reliable information for assessing the progress of its cost containment efforts and for informing judiciary and congressional oversight and decision making, the Director of AOUSC should develop a reliable method for estimating cost savings achieved (i.e., that ensures that cost savings are calculated in an accurate and complete manner) for major cost containment initiatives (as determined by the judiciary).

    Agency: Administrative Office of the United States Courts
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2016, the AOUSC reported that the Judicial Conference Budget Committee (Committee) discussed the GAO report and its two recommendations relating to major cost containment initiatives in January 2016. Among other things, the Budget Committee asked AOUSC staff to lead a working group to examine major cost containment efforts and develop recommendations on how to proceed on improvements to the calculation and reporting of associated cost savings. According to the AOUSC, work is currently underway to address the Budget Committee's recommendations. To fully address this recommendation, the AOUSC should provide the working group's recommendations on how to proceed on improvements to the calculation of cost savings associated with major cost containment efforts and evidence that the improvements have been implemented.
    Recommendation: To provide more reliable information for assessing the progress of its cost containment efforts and for informing judiciary and congressional oversight and decision making, the Director of AOUSC should regularly report estimated cost savings achieved for major cost containment initiatives (as determined by the judiciary).

    Agency: Administrative Office of the United States Courts
    Status: Open

    Comments: In September 2016, the AOUSC reported that the Judicial Conference Budget Committee (Committee) discussed the GAO report and its two recommendations relating to major cost containment initiatives in January 2016. Among other things, the Committee asked AOUSC staff to lead a working group to examine major cost containment efforts and develop recommendations on how to proceed on improvements to the calculation and reporting of associated cost savings. The AOUSC stated that the Committee believes that reporting on the Judiciary's cost containment initiatives should be included in the Judiciary's annual budget justification materials, as appropriate, to support the annual budget request. To fully address this recommendation, the AOUSC should provide the working group's recommendations on how to proceed on improvements to the reporting of cost savings associated with major cost containment efforts and evidence that the improvements have been implemented.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that agencies' policies and oversight are fully consistent with The Attorney General's Guidelines Regarding the Use of Confidential Informants, the Assistant Secretary of ICE and the Commandant of USCG should update their respective agencies' informant policies and corresponding monitoring processes to explicitly address the Guidelines' provisions on oversight of informants' illegal activities.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement
    Status: Open

    Comments: In December 2016, ICE issued a memo regarding changes to its policies for the registration and suitability of confidential informants. The memo included updated forms to oversee those aspects of confidential informant oversight. In April 2017, ICE officials informed GAO that a working group is in the process of updating the Informants Handbook and the Undercover Operations Handbook. ICE expects to finalize drafts of the handbooks in September 2017 and implement them by December 2017. When the updated handbooks are available for GAO's review, we will assess the extent to which they address our recommendation.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure the timely expenditure of VOCA grant funds and thereby limit the carryover of unexpended grant balances, minimize the need for multiple grant extensions, and strengthen OJJDP's capacity to collect and assess grantee performance information, the Assistant Attorney General for OJP should work with the Administrator of OJJDP to conduct a study to examine whether any of its administrative processes contribute to unnecessary delays in grantees' ability to expend VOCA funds within the established 12-month project period and make modifications to these processes as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs: Office of the Assistant Attorney General
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2015, we found that OJJDP had several administrative review and approval processes in place that had contributed to delays in grantees' ability to begin spending their award funds. For instance, grantees could not access their funds until OJJDP had completed its internal review of grantees' budgets--a step that had taken more than 2 months, on average, after the grantees' project period had begun. We recommended that OJP examine its processes and, if appropriate, make modifications to prevent unnecessary delays in grantees' ability to expend VOCA funds within the established project period. In March 2017, OJP reported that its Office of Audit, Assessment and Management (OAAM), worked with OJJDP to complete an assessment to determine the impact of administrative processes on VOCA awards. Focusing on VOCA grants awarded in fiscal years 2010 through 2015, OAAM assessed a number of factors, including (1) the average timeframe for approval of budget reviews; (2) the average timeframe for approval of conference cost requests, and (3) the number of no-cost extensions granted. OJP reported that OAAM continues to work with OJJDP to review documentation to support implementation of process improvements to address the issues the assessment identified. OAAM anticipates issuing a report by March 31, 2017 to OJP's Acting Assistant Attorney General to summarize the results of the assessment and provide updates on the process improvements OJJDP has begun to implement. Examining the delays associated with its administrative review processes and making modifications as necessary will help OJP ensure the effective administration and timely use of grant funds.
    Recommendation: To ensure the timely expenditure of VOCA grant funds and thereby limit the carryover of unexpended grant balances, minimize the need for multiple grant extensions, and strengthen OJJDP's capacity to collect and assess grantee performance information, the Assistant Attorney General for OJP should work with the Administrator of OJJDP to, considering the results of this study, examine whether the current 12-month project period is realistic in light of any administrative processes that cause delay but cannot be modified and extend the project period if necessary.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs: Office of the Assistant Attorney General
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2015, we found that VOCA grant activities were not being completed within the time parameters OJJDP established for the grant program, and that this may affect the ability of grantees to complete their grant goals and objectives. Specifically, we found that for the 28 VOCA grants that OJJDP awarded from fiscal years 2010 through 2013, grantees had expended less than 20 percent, on average, of each grant they received during the original 12-month project period. In particular, we found that OJJDP's processes for reviewing grantees' budgets and conference planning requests were contributing to delays in grantees' ability to begin spending their funds. We recommended that OJP examine whether 12 months is an appropriate project period length to ensure that VOCA grantees are well positioned to fully expend their grant funds. In March 2017, OJP reported that its Office of Audit, Assessment and Management (OAAM), worked with OJJDP to complete an assessment to determine the impact of administrative processes on VOCA awards. Focusing on VOCA grants awarded in fiscal years 2010 through 2015, OAAM assessed a number of factors, including (1) the average timeframe for approval of budget reviews; (2) the average timeframe for approval of conference cost requests, and (3) the number of no-cost extensions granted. OJP reported that OAAM continues to work with OJJDP to review documentation to support implementation of process improvements to address the issues the assessment identified. OAAM anticipates issuing a report by March 31, 2017 to OJP's Acting Assistant Attorney General to summarize the results of the assessment and provide updates on the process improvements OJJDP has begun to implement. Once OJJDP examines its administrative delays, makes any necessary changes, and reviews the original project period length, OJP will be better positioned to ensure that grantees have an appropriate period in which to expend VOCA grant awards.
    Director: Michelle Sager
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure the adherence to requirements for approval and public access to and feedback on significant guidance in accordance with OMB's Final Bulletin for Agency Good Guidance Practices (M-07-07), the Secretary of HHS should develop written procedures for the approval of significant guidance documents.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In comments printed in the April 2015 final report, HHS concurred with the recommendation and stated that it would explore the best mechanism for distributing written procedures for approval of significant guidance. As of August 2017, GAO is working with HHS officials to obtain additional updates and documentation regarding the department's implementation of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve agencies' guidance development, review, evaluation, and dissemination processes for non-significant guidance, we recommend that the Secretaries of USDA, HHS, DOL, and Education should strengthen their selected components' application of internal controls to guidance processes by adopting, as appropriate, practices developed by other departments and components, such as assessment of risk; written procedures and tools to promote the consistent implementation and communication of management directives; and ongoing monitoring efforts to ensure that guidance is being issued appropriately and has the intended effect. Examples of practices that could be adopted more widely include (1) written procedures for guidance production to, among other things, clearly define management roles; (2) improved communication tools, such as routing slips to document management review; and (3) consistent and ongoing monitoring to determine if guidance is being accessed and having the intended effect.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In comments printed in the April 2015 final report, HHS concurred with the recommendation and stated that it would continue to work with its agencies to share best practices and ensure that agency practices are alighted with departmental standards. As of August 2017, GAO is working with HHS officials to obtain additional updates and documentation regarding the department's implementation of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve agencies' guidance development, review, evaluation, and dissemination processes for non-significant guidance, we recommend that the Secretaries of USDA, HHS, DOL, and Education should improve the usability of selected component websites to ensure that the public can easily find, access, and comment on online guidance. These improvements could be informed by the web and customer satisfaction metrics that components have collected on their websites. Some examples of changes that could facilitate public access to online guidance include (1) improving website usability by clarifying which links contain guidance; (2) highlighting new or important guidance; and (3) ensuring that posted guidance is current.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In comments printed in the April 2015 final report, HHS concurred with the recommendation and stated that it would review current links to guidance documents and explore ways to enhance their visibility and usability. As of August 2017, GAO is working with HHS officials to obtain additional updates and documentation regarding the department's implementation of this recommendation.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    8 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better leverage the commissioners' expertise in the development of the annual work plan, Congress should consider amending the Denali Commission Act, potentially with one of the identified options.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: On December 10, 2016, Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, or WIIN Act. As of December 14, 2016, the legislation had not yet been signed by the President. Section 5002 of the legislation included provisions related to the Denali Commission. If the legislation becomes law we will review it in more detail to see if it addresses this matter for congressional consideration.
    Recommendation: To address barriers to the operation of the Commission, Congress should consider amending the Denali Commission Act to include either a holdover or delegation of authority provision when the Federal Cochair position is vacant.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: On December 10, 2016, Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, or WIIN Act. As of December 14, 2016, the legislation had not yet been signed by the President. Section 5002 of the legislation included provisions related to the Denali Commission. If the legislation becomes law we will review it in more detail to see if it addresses this matter for congressional consideration.
    Recommendation: To enhance the Commission's operations, the Commission's Federal Cochair should direct the Commission to consider options for fulfilling the Commission's statutory purpose and finalize that new approach in a new strategic plan.

    Agency: Denali Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is reviewing actions by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the Commission's grants management, the Commission's Federal Cochair should direct the Commission to issue Commission-specific policies for awarding and managing grants.

    Agency: Denali Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is reviewing actions by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the Commission's grants management, the Commission's Federal Cochair should direct the Commission to establish a documented process for ensuring that the findings of single audits of grantees are promptly resolved and take action to resolve any recent single audits that showed evidence of a potential problem.

    Agency: Denali Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is reviewing actions by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the Commission's grants management, the Commission's Federal Cochair should direct the Commission to continue efforts to close out grants and projects, including deobligating unspent grant funds in a timely manner.

    Agency: Denali Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is reviewing actions by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the Commission's grants management, the Commission's Federal Cochair should direct the Commission to take steps to consistently manage and retain Commission records, including implementing its record retention policy once it is approved.

    Agency: Denali Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is reviewing actions by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To allow for greater flexibility in the Commission's operations, Congress should consider amending the Denali Commission Act to modify or end the 5 percent cap on administrative expenditures.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 14, 2016, no legislation had been enacted to address this issue.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve disposition reporting that would help states update and complete criminal history records, the Director of the FBI should task the FBI Advisory Policy Board to establish a plan with time frames and milestones for achieving its Disposition Task Force's stated goals.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better equip states to meet the regulatory requirement to notify individuals of their rights to challenge and update information in their criminal history records, and to ensure that audit findings are resolved, the Director of the FBI--in coordination with the Compact Council-- should determine why states do not comply with the requirement to notify applicants and use this information to revise its state educational programs accordingly.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Federal Bureau of Investigation
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-8777

    8 open recommendations
    including 8 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure that FBI whistleblowers have access to recourse under DOJ's regulations should the individuals experience retaliation, and to minimize the possibility of discouraging future potential whistleblowers, the Attorney General should clarify in all current relevant DOJ guidance and communications, including FBI guidance and communications, to whom FBI employees may make protected disclosures and, further, explicitly state that employees will not have access to recourse if they experience retaliation for reporting alleged wrongdoing to someone not designated in DOJ's regulations.

    Agency: Department of Justice
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 1, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not responded to GAO requests for information on any efforts DOJ has taken to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ensure that complainants receive the periodic updates that they are entitled to and need to determine next steps for their complaint, such as whether or not to seek corrective action from OARM, Counsel, DOJ-OPR should tailor its new case management system or otherwise develop an oversight mechanism to capture information on the office's compliance with regulatory requirements and, further, use that information to monitor and identify opportunities to improve DOJ-OPR's compliance with regulatory requirements.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Office of Professional Responsibility
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 1, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not responded to GAO requests for information on any efforts DOJ has taken to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOJ is fulfilling its commitment to improving efficiency in handling these complaints, Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) and Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG) should provide parties with an estimated time frame for returning each decision, including whether the complaint meets threshold regulatory requirements, merits, and appeals. If the time frame shifts, OARM and ODAG should timely communicate a revised estimate to the parties.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Office of the Deputy Attorney General
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 1, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not responded to GAO requests for information on any efforts DOJ has taken to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOJ is fulfilling its commitment to improving efficiency in handling these complaints, Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management (OARM) and Office of the Deputy Attorney General (ODAG) should provide parties with an estimated time frame for returning each decision, including whether the complaint meets threshold regulatory requirements, merits, and appeals. If the time frame shifts, OARM and ODAG should timely communicate a revised estimate to the parties.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Justice Management Division: Human Resources and Administration: Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 1, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not responded to GAO requests for information on any efforts DOJ has taken to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOJ is fulfilling its commitment to improving efficiency in handling these complaints, DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility (DOJ-OPR), Office of the Inspector General, OARM, and ODAG should jointly assess the impact of ongoing and planned efforts to reduce the duration of FBI whistleblower retaliation complaints throughout the entire investigation, adjudication, and appeal process to ensure that these changes are in fact shortening total complaint length, without sacrificing quality.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Office of the Deputy Attorney General
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 1, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not responded to GAO requests for information on any efforts DOJ has taken to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOJ is fulfilling its commitment to improving efficiency in handling these complaints, DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility (DOJ-OPR), Office of the Inspector General, OARM, and ODAG should jointly assess the impact of ongoing and planned efforts to reduce the duration of FBI whistleblower retaliation complaints throughout the entire investigation, adjudication, and appeal process to ensure that these changes are in fact shortening total complaint length, without sacrificing quality.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Justice Management Division: Human Resources and Administration: Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 1, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not responded to GAO requests for information on any efforts DOJ has taken to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOJ is fulfilling its commitment to improving efficiency in handling these complaints, DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility (DOJ-OPR), Office of the Inspector General, OARM, and ODAG should jointly assess the impact of ongoing and planned efforts to reduce the duration of FBI whistleblower retaliation complaints throughout the entire investigation, adjudication, and appeal process to ensure that these changes are in fact shortening total complaint length, without sacrificing quality.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Office of Professional Responsibility
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 1, 2017, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not responded to GAO requests for information on any efforts DOJ has taken to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that DOJ is fulfilling its commitment to improving efficiency in handling these complaints, DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility (DOJ-OPR), Office of the Inspector General, OARM, and ODAG should jointly assess the impact of ongoing and planned efforts to reduce the duration of FBI whistleblower retaliation complaints throughout the entire investigation, adjudication, and appeal process to ensure that these changes are in fact shortening total complaint length, without sacrificing quality.

    Agency: Department of Justice: Office of Inspector General
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 1, 2017, GAO has not received information from the Department of Justice about any steps taken to address this recommendation.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: If Congress agrees that significant paid preparer errors exist, it should consider legislation granting IRS the authority to regulate paid tax preparers.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, several bills were introduced in Congress that would authorize the Department of Treasury to regulate paid tax return preparers. As of September 2017, no action has been taken on any of the bills. GAO testified on October 1, 2015 on improper payments and the tax gap before Senate Finance and on December 10, 2015 on GAO recommendations before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, US Senate. Both hearings increased attention to GAO's matter to Congress that tax preparers be regulated. Paid preparer regulation may increase the accuracy of tax returns and potentially reduce the tax gap.
    Director: Maurer, Diana C
    Phone: (202) 512-9627

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure the accuracy of its Senior Federal Official Travel Reports, the Administrator of GSA should collect additional information from agencies on instances where travel is not being reported because of an exemption for intelligence agencies, as opposed to some other reason, and include such information in its reports where departmental data do not include trips pursuant to an agency's exercise of a reporting exemption.

    Agency: General Services Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Garcia-diaz, Daniel
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To further improve agency controls that help prevent payments to participants whose incomes exceed eligibility limits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator of FSA to implement a process to verify that accountants' and attorneys' statements accurately reflect participants' incomes as reported on income tax returns and supporting documentation or other equivalent documents.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department agreed with this recommendation at the time of our report but, as of April 2017, has not acted to implement it because of the sensitive nature of questioning accountants' and attorneys' professional judgement. However, we believe doing so would reduce the likelihood of improper payments supported by U.S. taxpayers and would be an appropriate action for the agency to take.