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    Subject Term: "School management and organization"

    7 publications with a total of 23 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve oversight of school finances and provide better information to schools and the public about its monitoring efforts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should update the composite score formula to better measure schools' financial conditions and capture financial risks.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve oversight of school finances and provide better information to schools and the public about its monitoring efforts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should improve guidance to schools about how the financial composite score is calculated, for example, by updating current guidance to include explanations about common areas of confusion and misinterpretation for schools.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To improve oversight of school finances and provide better information to schools and the public about its monitoring efforts, the Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid should increase the transparency of public data on schools' financial health by publicly listing the final composite score for each school.

    Agency: Department of Education: Office of Federal Student Aid
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop and take corrective actions, in consultation with Interior's Designated Agency Safety and Health Official, to address BIA safety program weaknesses identified in prior Interior evaluations.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. The agency stated that the Designated Agency Safety and Health Official (DASHO) is working with the Indian Affairs' safety office and BIA regional leadership to discuss the current state of BIA's safety program and develop a corrective action plan to address identified safety program weaknesses.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to assign responsibility to a specific office or official to develop and implement a plan to assess employees' safety training needs and monitor employees' compliance with Indian Affairs' safety training requirements.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. Interior indicated that Indian Affairs is developing a safety training plan, which will establish program responsibilities and compliance requirements for safety training across BIA, among other areas. Interior also noted that line offices will track the implementation of the training plan and individuals' compliance with training requirements.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to ensure that BIA's employee performance standards on inspections are consistently incorporated into the appraisal plans of all BIA personnel with safety program responsibilities.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. Interior commented that the appraisal plans of BIA regional directors had been updated to include BIA's new performance standards on inspections, which we noted in our report. The agency also stated that Indian Affairs' work in addressing this recommendation was primarily completed. However, Interior did not provide evidence that the appraisal plans of all BIA staff with safety program responsibilities included all of the bureau's new performance standards on safety inspections. We continue to believe that it is important that BIA's employee performance standards on inspections are consistently incorporated in all BIA employee appraisal plans.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a performance standard on inspection report quality and establish a process to routinely monitor the quality of inspection reports. Monitoring could include, but not be limited to, the following areas: accuracy of risk levels and abatement timeframes assigned to deficiencies and clarity of language to describe safety hazards and recommended corrections.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. The agency noted that Indian Affairs is developing written policies and procedures for safety inspections at BIE schools, which it says will address issues with report clarity and accuracy, among other areas. However, Interior did not provide us with information about whether it will establish a performance standard for report quality and a process for monitoring inspection quality, which are the two key actions we recommended. We maintain that these steps are needed to ensure that BIE schools receive thorough and accurate safety inspection reports.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to require safety inspectors to document when inspection reports are sent to schools and establish a process to routinely monitor the timeliness of reports against Indian Affairs' required 30-day timeframe.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. Interior stated that Indian Affairs will require inspectors to certify and report the dates on which inspectors send reports to schools. The agency also noted that Indian Affairs' safety office will monitor the timeliness of inspection reports sent to schools and report the results of its monitoring to Indian Affairs' senior leadership.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to use information gathered from monitoring the timeliness of school safety inspection reports to assess the performance of employees with safety program responsibilities and hold them accountable.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. Interior stated that supervisors will ensure that responsible employees are held accountable for complying with its performance standards on safety inspections. We continue to believe it is important that Indian Affairs use information from monitoring inspection report timeliness to assess employee performance.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure accountability for BIE school facility funds, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs to develop a comprehensive long-term capital asset plan to inform its allocation of school facility funds. Such a plan should include a prioritized list of school repair and maintenance projects with the greatest need for funding.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. Interior stated that Indian Affairs is engaged with the Office of Management and Budget to develop a more robust and prioritized capital asset management plan for school infrastructure needs, which they expect to complete before the end of fiscal year 2017.
    Recommendation: To ensure accountability for BIE school facility funds, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs to provide more details in Indian Affairs' annual congressional budget justifications on specific needs at BIE schools, including information on proposed capital expenditures, and updates on previous school construction projects.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. In May 2017, Interior stated that Indian Affairs is currently engaged in an effort to comprehensively review the budget justification process with the objective of improving the quality, format, and presentation of the President's annual budget submission to Congress and that it will work to provide more detailed information on proposed capital expenditures and updates on previous construction projects. In addition, the agency reported that Indian Affairs will ensure improvements to the budgeting process are made permanent through formal policy and procedure in order to ensure that the needs of BIE schools are accurately and regularly reported in its congressional budget justification.
    Recommendation: To ensure accountability for BIE school facility funds, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs to develop and implement guidance for its project managers and contracting officers regarding effective use of accountability measures.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. Interior indicated that the Acquisition office and the Division of Facilities Management and Construction are working together to create and implement guidance and were preparing and planning improvements for future construction contracts. In addition, the agency stated that Indian Affairs will develop a financial accountability workgroup with members from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, BIA, BIE, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs to develop guidance and standards to ensure the effective use of accountability measures.
    Recommendation: To ensure accountability for BIE school facility funds, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs to clarify Indian Affairs' design handbook requirements to explain when and how school designs can deviate from specific requirements--such as heating and cooling systems with complex features--when the life cycle cost analysis demonstrates the requirements are not cost-effective or practical given such factors as the technical capacity of school facility staff.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior disagreed with this recommendation, noting that it had revised its design handbook in 2017 and that the revised handbook includes a process to consider deviations that do not violate requisite codes, standards, or laws. Interior also stated that the handbook is not intended to describe every scenario where a deviation may be requested and that it is more efficient to allow designers, schools and other users to request deviations and exceptions as and when needs arise. However, we believe the revised handbook is still in draft and is being reviewed internally and has neither been finalized nor distributed: an updated design handbook that includes a process for deviations is critical. We agree with the agency that the handbook does not need to describe every scenario where a deviation may be requested. The draft 2017 handbook indicates that when conflicts or questions arise the designer is to formally notify the Interior project manager in writing to request a waiver. However, it does not provide an explanation of the process or how life cycle cost analysis might inform that process. We continue to believe that, in addition to a process, providing guidelines and an explanation about how life-cycle cost analysis should inform such decisions in the handbook before it is finalized would be useful and help to ensure that the choices designers make with regard to design are both cost-effective and practical.
    Recommendation: To ensure accountability for BIE school facility funds, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs to improve oversight and technical assistance to tribal organizations to enhance tribal capacity to manage major construction projects.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. Interior stated that its Division of Facilities Management and Construction will develop a "high-risk" project tracking and monitoring process. The Division will work with BIA and BIE facilities managers to develop an engagement plan to better inform tribes of the extensive requirements involving the management of capital projects replacing schools or facilities. For tribes that manage projects themselves, Indian Affairs will offer to provide them with technical assistance, particularly during key program phases.
    Recommendation: To ensure accountability for BIE school facility funds, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs to develop and implement guidance for maintaining complete contract and grant files for all BIE school construction projects.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Interior agreed with this recommendation. Interior stated that Indian Affairs will develop, as part of its Financial Accountability Workgroup, guidance for maintaining all types of construction contract and grant files.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: Using its general authority to collaborate with other federal agencies, the Secretary of Education should convene its federal interagency partners to develop a strategic approach to interagency collaboration on school emergency preparedness. This group could include designees or delegates from the Secretaries of DHS, HHS, and the Attorney General, including representatives from relevant agency components, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Transportation Security Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and others as appropriate, and should incorporate leading federal interagency collaboration practices, for example, by: (1) identifying leadership, (2) defining outcomes and assigning accountability, (3) including all relevant participants, and (4) identifying necessary resources.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: The Department of Education agrees that improved federal coordination will better assist K-12 schools in preparing for emergencies, and noted that other federal agencies, including especially FEMA, play a significant role in school emergency preparedness. Additionally, Education cited the importance of involving other relevant agencies in obtaining agreement on the assignment of roles and responsibilities, including selecting a lead agency charged with primary responsibility for coordinating federal emergency preparedness assistance to K-12 schools. In August 2016, Education convened a committee of Assistant Secretary-level representatives from relevant agencies, including DHS, FEMA, and TSA, among others, to develop a strategic approach to interagency collaboration on school emergency management efforts. Subsequently, in October 2016, it convened a task force consisting of program staff from the relevant agencies to draft a plan for organizational structure, goals, and objectives for the next five years, which it expects will be approved for implementation beginning in January 2017. We are encouraged by these actions and will monitor the group's progress towards developing a strategic approach to school emergency preparedness. Education stated that it expects to complete these efforts very soon. At that time, we will await documentation showing that it has finalized and implemented its strategic approach for interagency collaboration around school emergency management.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that veterans' education benefits are used effectively, the Secretary of VA should take additional steps to improve the outreach, accessibility, and usefulness of its educational counseling services, particularly for prospective student veterans, for example by (1) featuring these services in resources intended for prospective students veterans; (2) prioritizing efforts to enable veterans to apply for educational counseling online; and (3) considering cost-effective ways to gather more information on applicants, users, and key program areas (such as the timeliness of service) to better identify service needs or gaps and to improve the effectiveness of future outreach.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA has taken steps and is planning additional work to improve the accessibility and usefulness of its educational counseling services, especially for prospective student veterans. Specifically, VA has incorporated an online application and some additional information about educational counseling on its website. However, VA is in the process of transitioning to a new website, vets.gov, which is not yet fully operational. Additionally, the current pathway within that website for prospective student veterans to learn about educational counseling is not completely clear, and VA officials noted that they are working on specific sequencing for the new website to present that information. VA has estimated that the new website will be fully operational by the end of March 2017. At that time, GAO will review the new website to make sure that prospective student veterans who want help on how to use their education benefits effectively have an easy-to-follow pathway to access information explaining VA's educational counseling services and the different ways to apply for these services.
    Director: Scott, George A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop and implement decision-making procedures for BIE that specify who should be involved in the decision-making process for key decisions that affect BIE and its schools to ensure that BIE has effective management controls, is accountable for the use of federal funds, and comports with federal laws and regulations. Such procedures should be clearly documented in management directives, administrative policies, or operating manuals.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) officials stated that they have developed decision-making procedures for BIE in consultation with staff from across the bureau. They indicated that the procedures will be implemented in the coming weeks, pending final approval from the Office of Regulatory Affairs and Collaborative Action and the Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs. We reviewed Indian Affairs' draft procedures, which they plan to incorporate into Indian Affairs' policy manual. The procedures identify, by position, BIE leaders whose involvement in the decision-making process is necessary and define roles and responsibilities of such individuals, among other areas. We will consider whether Indian Affairs' actions fully address this recommendation once the agency provides us with its finalized procedures.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a strategic plan that includes detailed goals and strategies for BIE and for those offices that support BIE's mission, including the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to help Indian Affairs effectively implement its realignment. Development of the strategic plan should incorporate feedback from BIE officials and other key stakeholders. To gather stakeholder input, we recommend that the plan include a comprehensive communications strategy to improve communication within Indian Affairs and between Indian Affairs and BIE staff.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, Indian Affairs officials stated that the draft strategic plan for BIE developed by the agency several years ago did not address our recommendation. Officials also told us they began holding strategic planning sessions in March 2017, which they said would continue through late September 2017. Indian Affairs drafted several key elements of its new strategic plan for BIE. The draft includes information on its mission, vision, values and goals. According to agency officials, they are currently developing additional elements to include milestones, measures, and specific action plans. Officials also noted that BIE has reached out to external subject matter expert organizations, such as the Council of Chief State School Officers, in developing its strategic plan. Officials reported they expect to implement the new plan no later than the end of calendar year 2017. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to revise its strategic workforce plan to ensure that employees providing administrative support to BIE have the requisite knowledge and skills to help BIE achieve its mission and are placed in the appropriate offices to ensure that regions with a large number of BIE schools have sufficient support.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: Although BIE completed a strategic workforce planning effort in 2016, the agency has not fully addressed this recommendation. We will monitor the agency's efforts to finish implementing this recommendation.
    Director: Goldstein, Mark L
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve internal controls over the E-rate program, the Federal Communications Commission should, based on the findings of the risk assessment, conduct a thorough examination of the overall design of E-rate's internal control structure to ensure that the procedures and administrative resources related to internal controls are aligned to provide reasonable assurance that program risks are appropriately targeted and addressed.

    Agency: Federal Communications Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2014, FCC approved USAC's hiring of a contractor to conduct a risk assessment of the E-rate program. FCC plans to implement this recommendation after the risk assessment is completed and the results of the risk assessment can be used to inform the examination of the internal control structure.
    Recommendation: To improve internal controls over the E-rate program, the Federal Communications Commission should implement a systematic approach to assess internal controls that appropriately considers the results of beneficiary audits and that is supported by a documented and approved set of policies and procedures.

    Agency: Federal Communications Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2014, FCC approved the hiring of a contractor to conduct a risk assessment of the E-rate program. In July 2014, an FCC official said that the agency planning to take action on this recommendation before the risk assessment is completed.
    Recommendation: To improve internal controls over the E-rate program, the Federal Communications Commission should develop policies and procedures to periodically monitor the internal control structure of the E-rate program, including evaluating the costs and benefits of internal controls, to provide continued reasonable assurance that program risks are targeted and addressed.

    Agency: Federal Communications Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2014, FCC approved the hiring of a contractor to conduct a risk assessment of the E-rate program. In July 2014, an FCC official said that the agency planning to take action on this recommendation before the risk assessment is completed.