Reports & Testimonies

  • GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed.

    GAO’s recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented. You can explore open recommendations by searching or browsing.

    GAO's priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. These recommendations are labeled as such. You can find priority recommendations by searching or browsing our open recommendations below, or through our mobile app.

  • Browse Open Recommendations

    Explore priority recommendations by subject terms or browse by federal agency

    Search Open Recommendations

    Search for a specific priority recommendation by word or phrase



  • Governing on the go?

    Our Priorities for Policy Makers app makes it easier for leaders to search our recommendations on the go.

    See the November 10th Press Release


  • Have a Question about a Recommendation?

    • For questions about a specific recommendation, contact the person or office listed with the recommendation.
    • For general information about recommendations, contact GAO's Audit Policy and Quality Assurance office at (202) 512-6100 or apqa@gao.gov.
  • « Back to Results List Sort by   

    Results:

    Subject Term: "Technical assistance"

    22 publications with a total of 59 open recommendations including 7 priority recommendations
    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: (617) 788-0580

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to expand its performance measures for the 21st Century program to address all program objectives. Specifically, Education should establish performance measures related to key behavioral, including student attendance and disciplinary incidents, and socio-emotional outcomes.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with our recommendations; rather, it generally noted that it will keep our recommendations in mind as it continues to implement changes in the program as a result of ESSA. Specifically, the department stated that it is in the process of re-examining whether additional or revised measures should be developed to align more significantly with the program's statutory objectives under ESSA. Education also expressed concern about collecting data on student attendance and disciplinary measures, noting that it will require effective collaboration between states, districts, and other eligible entities. However, we note that about half of states already collect data on at least one of these two measures; and that research has shown that 21st Century programs more often have positive effects on student attendance and reducing disciplinary incidents than on improving students' academic outcomes. Given these effects, we continue to believe that it is critical for Education to measure student attendance and disciplinary incidents to obtain more complete, accurate information on this program's effect on student outcomes.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to conduct federal-level data checks on the accuracy of 21st Century program data submitted by states. Such checks could test for logical relationships between fields. Education should also publicly disclose and address any data limitations it identifies, as appropriate.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education commented that it plans to build in additional data checks into the data system beyond its current checks on the data's completeness. Specifically, Education anticipates that new technology enhancements in the data system will be designed to flag for inconsistencies in data reporting. For example, the system may send a "flag" that participation data is significantly lower or higher than previously reported participation data. Further, Education indicated that it will consider whether auditors performing audits under the Single Audit Act can be asked and guided to do more checks on the accuracy and reliability of 21st Century program data.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to provide written, non-regulatory guidance to states on developing and conducting high-quality 21st Century state evaluations to help address the difficulties states face in measuring program performance and effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education outlined several steps it has taken to assist states in the past. For example, Education said that it provided six states with individualized technical assistance on strategies related to developing statewide evaluations and measures. Education also noted that, to date, it has conducted two webinars on state evaluations and is in the process of including presentations from those webinars on its online learning portal so that states will have easy access to the information. In addition, Education stated that it included presentations on evaluation strategies in the past during its Summer Institute. Education also said it would consider whether additional guidance for all states was needed. While these are important steps, we do not believe they are sufficient. We continue to believe that Education should prepare written guidance to assist all states in developing and conducting high-quality program evaluations.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should direct the Office of Academic Improvement to use the information it collects from its monitoring visits and ongoing interactions with states to share effective practices across states for sustaining their 21st Century programs once program funding ends. This information could be shared using existing mechanisms such as Education's meetings with 21st Century state coordinators.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation. Education noted that it hosts meetings twice a year for 21st Century state coordinators where strategies related to program sustainability are shared with states. These meetings covered topics such as reducing the amounts of 21st Century grant awards by a percentage each year. However, these meetings have not focused on topics on program sustainability for several years. We continue to believe that Education should take the lead in sharing information with states to help them address their sustainability challenges by sharing information on state policies and practices that have shown some success.
    Director: Kay Brown
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve tribes' ability to maintain safe, stable, and permanent care for children, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Children's Bureau to explore the reasons for low tribal participation and identify actions to increase this participation in the title IV-E Guardianship Assistance Program.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS agreed with this recommendation. The agency noted that some tribal-state agreements might predate 2008, when GAP was established. HHS also said that regional office staff participate annually in joint planning for the title IV-B and IV-E programs with their respective states and tribes and that participation in GAP is a topic covered in joint planning activities. In addition, HHS said that regional office staff are available to assist states and tribes with discussions about GAP participation when tribal-state agreements are renegotiated and that technical assistance is available to tribes, if needed. According to HHS, the agency plans to add information to the Children's Bureau website about direct federal funding for tribal title IV-E agencies and about tribal-state partnership agreements and plans to distribute issue briefs on GAP and best practices for tribal-state agreements. We agree that HHS has the planning process, technical assistance resources, and regional staff in place to discuss GAP participation with title IV-E state and tribal agency officials. However, our review found that tribal participation in GAP remains low, which suggests that HHS needs to identify actions to increase participation in this program. We believe that the additional actions HHS plans to take - providing information on the Children's Bureau website about direct funding and distributing issue briefs on GAP and best practices for tribal - state partnerships and agreements - could support tribes' participation in GAP either by helping tribes to directly operate a title IV-E program or to negotiate a tribal-state agreement that includes a provision for GAP participation. Because some tribes reported challenges at the state level to participating in GAP and several tribes reported that the state where they are located does not participate in the program, we encourage HHS to engage title IV-E state agency officials in discussions about tribal participation in GAP during the annual review of the their title IV-E state plan. HHS could identify ways that regional office staff might help state agencies resolve any challenges to GAP participation that tribes experience at the state level. HHS has taken several steps over the past few years to help tribes with their title IV-E programs, including hiring a tribal coordinator to facilitate communication between regional offices and tribal title IV-E agencies. Taking additional steps to ensure that tribes have the opportunity to participate in GAP could go a long way toward helping tribes gain more resources for children under their care and better support tribes' efforts to care for children exiting foster care to permanent homes.
    Director: Michelle Sager
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enable a more effective approach in working with states to adopt the NDRF, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Administrator of FEMA to conduct a systematic analysis of the information generated from FEMA's readiness assessments to determine the extent of regional office efforts to help states implement the NDRF, including conducting education and outreach.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: DHS concurred with this recommendation and said it would take steps to implement it. According to FEMA, its Office of Readiness Assessment (ORA) launched the 2016 bi-annual FEMA Readiness Assessment Program in April 2016, which includes NDRF related assessment discussions in five FEMA regions. We met with officials in April 2017, who told us that ORA plans to incorporate into this year's assessments, a retrospective review of NDRF findings and progress made in implementing the NDRF since 2013. We will continue to monitor this to see what additional actions the agency takes in response to this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enable a more effective approach in working with states to adopt the NDRF, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Administrator of FEMA to develop best practices and lessons learned with regard to conducting NDRF education and outreach to states based on the analysis of readiness assessments and create a mechanism to disseminate and share those best practices and lessons learned to FEMA regional offices.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: DHS concurred with this recommendation and said it would take steps to implement it. According to FEMA, its Recovery Support Function Leadership Group initiated an information management workgroup, which shares best practices information as one of its objectives. The workgroup has piloted the use of an existing interagency portal as a potential platform for improved information sharing. We met with officials in April 2017, who told us that FEMA will incorporate its 2016 readiness review findings and best practices from regional Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinators for stakeholder outreach and education into the final platform build-out. We will continue to monitor this to see what additional actions the agency takes in response to this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enable a more effective approach in working with states to adopt the NDRF, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Administrator of FEMA to clarify with regional offices and Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinators (FDRCs) the role of the regional implementation plans in FDRC performance plans and how they will be used to assess NDRF regional implementation efforts.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: DHS concurred with this recommendation and said it would take steps to implement it. According to FEMA, to achieve greater integration of FEMA's field leadership components, FEMA's Field Operations Directorate (FOD) convened a Field Leadership Working Group of senior subject matter experts to conduct a mission analysis of FEMA's Field Leadership function (which includes Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinators as well as Federal Coordinating Officers and Incident Management Assistance Teams team leads). According to FEMA, one of the assigned tasks of the group involves developing performance metrics to define a steady state and operational performance framework for field leaders, to include Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinators. According to FEMA, the Working Group is currently underway and is preparing a Field Leader Manual for review by FOD leadership. We will continue to monitor this to see what additional actions the agency takes in response to this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enable a more effective approach in working with states to adopt the NDRF, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Administrator of FEMA to align the annual FDRC performance expectations with clearly defined organizational goals and priorities, consistent with key management practices.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: DHS concurred with this recommendation and said it would take steps to implement it. According to FEMA, the Field Leadership Working Group will implement the elements of this recommendation alongside efforts to clarify the role of the regional National Disaster Recovery Framework implementation plans. FEMA also provided documentation to GAO noting that the Working Group is progressing in its work on its Field Leadership Professional Development Plan. We will continue to monitor this to see what additional actions the agency takes in response to this recommendation.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: As EPA and USDA continue to consider ways to track and promote water utilities' implementation of asset management, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Groundwater and Drinking Water and Office of Wastewater Management to continue to include questions on water utilities' use of asset management in the clean water needs assessment and consider including questions about water utilities' use of asset management in future drinking water infrastructure needs assessment surveys.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of March 2017, EPA has convened a workgroup of 40 people representing states, technical advisers, EPA, and USDA. It will develop new asset management outreach tools directed towards local decision makers. The group will meet quarterly and plans to issue tools and resources by fall 2017.
    Recommendation: As EPA and USDA continue to consider ways to track and promote water utilities' implementation of asset management, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of USDA, through the Rural Development Agency, should consider compiling into one document the existing cases and examples of the benefits and costs of asset management and widely share this information with water utilities.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, EPA has convened a workgroup of 40 people representing states, technical advisers, EPA, and USDA. It will develop new asset management outreach tools directed towards local decision makers. The group will meet quarterly and plans to issue tools and resources by fall 2017.
    Recommendation: As EPA and USDA continue to consider ways to track and promote water utilities' implementation of asset management, the Administrator of EPA, and the Secretary of USDA, through the Rural Development Agency, should consider compiling into one document the existing cases and examples of the benefits and costs of asset management and widely share this information with water utilities.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, EPA had convened a workgroup of 40 people representing states, technical advisers, EPA, and USDA. It will develop new asset management outreach tools directed towards local decision makers. The group will meet quarterly and plans to issue a best practices document by April 2017 and a webinar by May 2017.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help federal, state, local, and private sector decision makers access and use the best available climate information, the Executive Office of the President should designate a federal entity to develop and periodically update a set of authoritative climate change observations and projections for use in federal decision making, which state, local, and private sector decision makers could also access to obtain the best available climate information.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of 6/7/17, the Executive Office of the President has yet to take action in response to this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help federal, state, local, and private sector decision makers access and use the best available climate information, the Executive Office of the President should designate a federal entity to create a national climate information system with defined roles for federal agencies and nonfederal entities with existing statutory authority.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of 6/7/17, the Executive Office of the President has yet to take action in response to this recommendation.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help make an informed decision, the Commission should seek input from states on its proposal to draft updated guidance on class III minimum internal control standards and withdraw its 2006 regulations.

    Agency: National Indian Gaming Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is awaiting action by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve its ability to assess the effectiveness of its training and technical assistance efforts, the Commission should review and revise, as needed, its performance measures to include additional outcome-oriented measures.

    Agency: National Indian Gaming Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is awaiting action by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure letters of concern are more consistently prepared and responses tracked, the Commission should develop documented procedures and guidance to clearly identify letters of concern as such and to specify the type of information to be contained in them, such as time periods for a response.

    Agency: National Indian Gaming Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is awaiting action by the agency to implement this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help ensure letters of concern are more consistently prepared and responses tracked, the Commission should develop documented procedures and guidance to maintain and track tribes' responses to the Commission on potential compliance issues.

    Agency: National Indian Gaming Commission
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, GAO is awaiting action by the agency to implement this 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: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that states are better able to sustain RTT reforms and that Education can effectively support other grant programs managed by the Office of State Support, the Secretary of Education should direct the Office of State Support to fully implement and incorporate into its coordinated technical assistance policies and procedures the types of support that would be useful in sustaining RTT reforms and providing effective support to grantees in other programs supporting education reform that the Office of State Support oversees. These could include: (1) providing individualized technical assistance to states, such as that currently provided by Education program officers; (2) facilitating communities of practice to promote opportunities for collaboration across states; (3) providing professional development (or training) throughout the grant period, as opposed to only during the early stages of the grant; (4) making training more easily accessible by conducting training locally in their respective states, when possible; and (5) to the extent permissible in the context of federal and state requirements and restrictions, exploring the possibility of assisting states in identifying skilled contractors to help implement reform efforts.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that, as of October 20, 2015, the Office of State Support has a draft technical assistance plan in place that is currently being revised based on stakeholder input. Officials stated that the technical assistance plan addresses all of the numerated suggestions from GAO that were included in the recommendation. We look forward to reviewing the technical assistance plan once it is finalized. Education plans to provide an update by the end of fiscal year 2017.
    Recommendation: To help states address capacity challenges as they sustain comprehensive education reforms similar to RTT, the Secretary of Education direct the Office of State Support to take steps, such as: (1) providing ongoing individualized technical assistance to states to help them target assistance to rural districts, particularly in the reform areas that were most challenging for rural districts; (2) finalizing and disseminating guidance to be included in Education's toolkit to help states leverage federal formula grants to sustain education reforms; and (3) clarifying and improving understanding of how funding flexibilities in existing formula grants could be used to support education reform efforts to help states and the audit community address impediments to using formula grants in different ways.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it expected to release a toolkit for states and districts on ways to leverage federal grants to sustain educational reforms. As of October 20, 2015, officials stated that the toolkit is in clearance. Staff are developing a dissemination plan that will outline how the toolkit will be rolled out to states and support its use. However, they do not yet have an estimated release date. We look forward to reviewing the toolkit once it has been released. Education plans to provide an update by the end of fiscal year 2017.
    Director: Kay Brown
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the consistency of assistance provided to tribes, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should take steps to provide consistent title IV-E guidance to tribes across its regional offices.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2015, HHS hired a tribal coordinator who will work in the Office of the Associate Commissioner of the Children's Bureau. The tribal coordinator's primary functions will include facilitating communication across the regions and with tribes to share experiences and information, so as to ensure greater consistency and clarity. While this hire represents an initial step towards improving communication with tribal title IV-E agencies, more time is needed for the tribal coordinator to implement policies and procedures that will ensure consistent title IV-E guidance to tribes across HHS regional offices. In May 2017, the agency reported that tribal coordinator position was ultimately elevated to the Office of the ACYF Commissioner and became the Commissioner's representative to the Tribes. We await documentation on any guidance provided to the regional offices that would help with consistency.
    Recommendation: To improve the timeliness of assistance provided to tribes, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should establish procedures to ensure reviews of draft title IV-E plans are conducted by regional office staff in a timely manner.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, HHS stated that it does not anticipate taking action in response to this recommendation because of its existing protocols for communicating with and responding to tribal title IV-E grantees. We maintain that establishing procedures, including but not limited to timeframes for responses, would help ensure that tribes receive timely feedback from regional offices regarding their draft title IV-E plans.
    Director: Andrew Sherrill
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Depending on the outcome of the litigation, the Secretary of Labor should take steps to ensure the agency will be positioned to conduct a meaningful retrospective review consistent with the Executive Order at an appropriate time. These steps should be taken in consultation with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and could include, for example, identifying metrics that could be used to evaluate the rule, and implementing a plan to gather and analyze the necessary data.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) agreed with this recommendation and reported that it is working to develop data collection plans and explore a potential evaluation that is focused on the Home Care Rule. As part of this effort, WHD noted that it will continue to work with HHS and other federal partners. In FY16, WHD reported that such an evaluation of how stakeholders and affected industries have responded to the rule would be beneficial. However, litigation has delayed implementation and enforcement of the rule significantly, and WHD believes an evaluation at this stage would be premature and would be unlikely to fully and accurately capture stakeholders' responses to the rule and the resulting impacts. Delaying the evaluation would allow WHD to monitor the results of its own investigations and the effects of ongoing compliance assistance, both of which would be extremely difficult to measure at this early stage. WHD will continue to monitor early implementation to determine the appropriate start for any evaluation.
    Director: David J. Wise
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To promote and enhance federal, state, and local coordination activities, the Secretary of Transportation, as the chair of the Coordinating Council, should convene a meeting of the member agencies of the Coordinating Council and define and report on desired outcomes and collect related data to track and measure progress in achieving results, including the extent of coordination efforts that are under way, such as improved services for older adults. This effort could be conducted as a part of the Coordinating Council's process to update its strategic plan, which we have also recommended in a concurrent report.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has taken steps to enhance older adult mobility. For example, the agency and the Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility (CCAM) developed a draft strategic plan, which is being reevaluated in light of requirements in the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act of 2015. FTA officials will provide GAO with an update on the status of those efforts after the July 2016 CCAM meeting.
    Director: Kimberly Gianopoulos
    Phone: (202) 512-8612

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve the capacity of the U.S. government to monitor and enforce FTA partners' compliance with mutually agreed FTA labor provisions, USTR and DOL, in cooperation with State, should establish a coordinated strategic approach to monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions, to ensure that they systematically assess the consistency of priority FTA partner countries' laws, regulations, and practices with trade agreement labor provisions and address any identified concerns.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: DOL concurred with GAO recommendation and stated that it regularly coordinates monitoring and enforcement activities related to assessing and ensuring the consistency of FTA partner countries' labor laws, regulations, and practices with FTA labor provisions with USTR and State. In March 2017, the Monitoring and Enforcement of Trade Agreements Division (META) in DOLs Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) finalized Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for monitoring FTA labor provisions and engaging with partner country governments and stakeholders. These SOPs involve a renewed emphasis on monitoring trips to FTA partner countries to meet with government officials and in-country stakeholders to gather information on potential FTA violations and make key contacts with stakeholders to encourage direct communication going forward. The SOPs also include provisions regarding coordination with USTR and State in the monitoring and enforcement of FTA labor provisions. As of May 2017, this recommendation remains open pending further action by DOL and USTR.
    Recommendation: To improve the capacity of the U.S. government to monitor and enforce FTA partners' compliance with mutually agreed FTA labor provisions, USTR and DOL, in cooperation with State, should establish a coordinated strategic approach to monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions, to ensure that they systematically assess the consistency of priority FTA partner countries' laws, regulations, and practices with trade agreement labor provisions and address any identified concerns.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a correspondence dated January 12, 2015, USTR concurred with GAO's recommendation that USTR and DOL, in cooperation with State, establish a coordinated strategic approach to monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions, to ensure that they systematically assess the consistency of priority FTA partner countries' laws, regulations, and practices with trade agreement labor provisions and address any identified concerns. USTR stated that it is constantly exploring strategies to monitor and analyze information on labor issue more effectively and take action to implement those strategies. To implement GAO's recommendation, USTR is increasing the level and frequency of interagency monitoring through the Trade Policy Staff Committee, Subcommittee on Labor Monitor and Enforcement. Additionally, with DOL, USTR is exploring ways to improve engagement with U.S. Embassies in trade partner countries to monitor labor conditions. For example, DOL is funding the placement of labor officers in certain priority U.S. Embassies to collect and assess facts and to support the implementation of USTR and DOL's efforts. To date, according to USTR, DOL has placed labor officers in Colombia, Honduras, and Bangladesh. As of May 2017, this recommendation remains open pending further action by USTR and DOL.
    Recommendation: To improve the capacity of the U.S. government to monitor and enforce FTA partners' compliance with mutually agreed FTA labor provisions, USTR should ensure that the Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreement Programs, which USTR provides each year to Congress, includes results of USTR's and DOL's efforts to proactively monitor partner countries' compliance with FTA labor provisions.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a correspondence dated January 12, 2015, USTR concurred with GAO's recommendation that USTR should ensure that the Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreement Programs, which USTR provides each year to Congress, includes results of USTR's and DOL's efforts to proactively monitor partner countries' compliance with FTA labor provisions. USTR stated that its annual report already provides country-specific information on labor issues and that USTR regularly engages with Congress to provide detailed information on labor issues via meetings and phone conferences. Nonetheless, USTR recognizes that meaningful engagement with Congress is an indispensable part of monitoring and enforcing FTA labor provisions. To implement GAO's recommendation, USTR agreed to continue to identify more effective ways of communicating with Congress, including USTR's committees of jurisdiction, with respect to the Administration's FTA monitoring and enforcement efforts. Furthermore, USTR stated that it will solicit congressional advice and input to inform its efforts. As of May 2017, this recommendation remains open pending further action by USTR.
    Director: Jacqueline M. Nowicki
    Phone: (617) 788-0580

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to improve grantees' planning and implementation efforts, increase the effectiveness of grantee efforts to integrate and manage resources, and learn more about the program's impact, the Secretary of Education should clarify program guidance about planning and implementation grants to provide reasonable assurance that planning grantees are better prepared to continue their efforts in the absence of implementation funding. Additional guidance could include encouraging grantees to set aside a small amount of the grant to identify and deliver early, tangible benefits to their neighborhoods.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would communicate to planning grant applicants that implementation funding is contingent on the availability of funds and that it would clarify to grantees that planning grant funds could be used to achieve early, tangible benefits. However, Education has not awarded any new planning grants since 2012. In FY17, ED reported that if new funding becomes available for the Promise Neighborhoods' planning and implementation awards, the Department will emphasize to all interested applicants that grant awards are contingent on the availability of funds and the results of the competitive award process. Education also stated that it would provide more targeted technical assistance to planning grant recipients regarding strategies for continuing grantees' efforts absent implementation funding. In 2015, its technical assistance provider published information on planning for growth and sustainability of Promise Neighborhoods.
    Recommendation: In order to improve grantees' planning and implementation efforts, increase the effectiveness of grantee efforts to integrate and manage resources, and learn more about the program's impact, the Secretary of Education should develop and disseminate to grantees on an ongoing basis an inventory of federal programs and resources that can contribute to the Promise Neighborhoods program's goal to better support coordination across agency lines.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would work with its technical assistance providers to create a mechanism to distribute a comprehensive list of external funding opportunities, programs and resources on a regular basis to better support the grantees' implementation efforts. In FY15, ED reported that the program office held a grantee meeting in July 2015 featuring at least three workshops on sustainability and leveraging additional funding sources. The program office also had a website (promiseneighborhoods.ed.gov) with a number of resources under the "toolbox" tab that can assist interested programs in financing their ongoing needs. While the workshops and web resources were good first steps that can assist grantees, GAO maintains that Education, rather than individual grantees, is best positioned to develop and share such an inventory of federal programs that relate to the goals of the Promise Neighborhoods program. Without such an inventory, Education may be missing opportunities to better support grantees; find other federal program for future coordination efforts; and identify potential fragmentation, overlap and duplication at the federal level. In FY17, Education did not provide any updates on this recommendation, nor has it provided such an inventory.
    Recommendation: In order to improve grantees' planning and implementation efforts, increase the effectiveness of grantee efforts to integrate and manage resources, and learn more about the program's impact, the Secretary of Education should develop a plan to use the data collected from grantees to conduct a national evaluation of the program.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education stated that it would consider options for how and whether it can use the data collected from grantees to conduct a national evaluation. As a first step, Education said it would conduct a systematic evaluation of the reliability and validity of the data. In its 2016 Notice of Funding Availability for Implementation Grants, Education acknowledged that grantees have struggled to collect the full range of data necessary to conduct meaningful evaluation activities and emphasized the importance of helping grantees develop robust data systems. In addition, in its agency comments, Education had stated that it had not received sufficient funding to support a national evaluation. In FY2017, ED provided documentation of its request for funding for conducting an evaluation and the response to the request. However, the entity within ED that is responsible for impact evaluations maintains that it has no plans to conduct an impact evaluation, given that grantees were not randomly selected. GAO agrees that the program was not designed for impact evaluation, however, as we reported, there are other options for evaluating such programs that can provide meaningful information about how well grantees are addressing the problem of poor student outcomes in impoverished neighborhoods. Not evaluating the program limits Education and other agencies from learning about the extent to which model is effective and should be replicated. Developing an evaluation plan would provide critical information about the resources required to conduct an evaluation, and could better inform future funding requests for such an evaluation.
    Director: William Shear
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase consistency and reduce time and predevelopment cost for NAHASDA grant recipients, an interagency effort similar to that of the federal infrastructure task force but specific to tribal housing should be initiated with participants from the Indian Health Service, HUD, Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop and implement a coordinated environmental review process for all agencies overseeing tribal housing development. In addition, the agencies should determine if it would be appropriate to designate a lead agency in this effort.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken, we will update the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To increase consistency and reduce time and predevelopment cost for NAHASDA grant recipients, an interagency effort similar to that of the federal infrastructure task force but specific to tribal housing should be initiated with participants from the Indian Health Service, HUD, Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop and implement a coordinated environmental review process for all agencies overseeing tribal housing development. In addition, the agencies should determine if it would be appropriate to designate a lead agency in this effort.

    Agency: Indian Health Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken, we will update the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To increase consistency and reduce time and predevelopment cost for NAHASDA grant recipients, an interagency effort similar to that of the federal infrastructure task force but specific to tribal housing should be initiated with participants from the Indian Health Service, HUD, Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop and implement a coordinated environmental review process for all agencies overseeing tribal housing development. In addition, the agencies should determine if it would be appropriate to designate a lead agency in this effort.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken, we will update the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To increase consistency and reduce time and predevelopment cost for NAHASDA grant recipients, an interagency effort similar to that of the federal infrastructure task force but specific to tribal housing should be initiated with participants from the Indian Health Service, HUD, Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop and implement a coordinated environmental review process for all agencies overseeing tribal housing development. In addition, the agencies should determine if it would be appropriate to designate a lead agency in this effort.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken, we will update the status of this recommendation.
    Director: Moran, Revae E
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the consistency and completeness of national data on participants in the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs, the Secretary of Labor should take additional steps to improve the uniformity of participant data reported by states. The Secretary of Labor should promote a formal, continuous process for improving the quality of data on participants in the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs through such measures as the following: (a) consistently sharing the results of all oversight activities with states and local areas, including findings from validation of participant data; (b) reviewing the methods used for data validation, such as its scope and error rate threshold, to identify opportunities to increase efficiencies and accountability in the process. This could include implementing, if appropriate, recommendations from the Regions' review of data validation procedures; (c) evaluating data validation efforts to determine their effects on data quality, particularly on systemic errors, and providing targeted guidance and assistance to states and local areas to address such errors; (d) regularly monitoring Social Policy Research Associates' corrections and analyses of state WIA participant data, sharing this information with states, and coordinating with states to ensure that any corrections are appropriate and accurate; and (e) collecting and disseminating promising practices to states and local areas on data collection and reporting on a regular basis.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: States began using a Participant Individual Record Layout (PIRL)--which includes common reporting definitions across WIOA core programs--as of July 1, 2016, and DOL anticipates receiving the first State Annual Performance Reports based on these data by October 16, 2017. As part of this effort, DOL has held in-person training sessions with state and local officials and also provided them with technical assistance, including guidance related to implementing required data collection and reporting efforts under WIOA. In addition, DOL outlined several ongoing data validation efforts, such as adding additional edit checks and identifying and addressing technical issues as they occur. We will close this recommendation when DOL receives and processes the first state performance reports under the PIRL and furnishes documentation of its data validation efforts.
    Director: Melito, Thomas
    Phone: (202)512-9601

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To enhance U.S. efforts to promote international religious freedom, the Secretary of State and the Chair of USCIRF should jointly define how State and USCIRF should interact in their efforts to promote international religious freedom, paying particular attention to defining the ex-officio role of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom as a nonvoting USCIRF member.

    Agency: United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2015, officials from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor (DRL) said that the DRL Front Office and senior management have yet to approve a joint letter between State's Office of International Religious Freedom and the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that addresses GAO's recommendation. According to the officials, the DRL front office wanted to revisit the letter given the recent appointment of a new Ambassador-at-Large. According to the Ambassador, he met with USCIRF and wanted to provide input to the joint letter, but as of March 2015, the letter had not been approved by State. We followed up again in both August 2015 and August 2016 and were told that no progress on the letter or a joint understanding had been made. In July 2017, the President announced his nominee to be the new Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. As of August 15, 2017, the nomination is pending. State and USCIRF have not reached agreement on a letter responding to our recommendation.
    Recommendation: To enhance U.S. efforts to promote international religious freedom, the Secretary of State and the Chair of USCIRF should jointly define how State and USCIRF should interact in their efforts to promote international religious freedom, paying particular attention to defining the ex-officio role of the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom as a nonvoting USCIRF member.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: After the report was issued, in a letter dated May 28, 2013, the State Department said it has met with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to discuss a plan for better systematizing the interactions between the entities, including by more clearly defining the ex-officio role of the Ambassador-at-Large. In October 2013 and again in March 2014, State said it continued to discuss this plan with USCIRF. In October 2014, State said it had drafted a joint letter with USCIRF in response to our recommendation, but that it was awaiting a Front Office signature. In March 2015, officials from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights & Labor (DRL) said that the DRL Front Office and senior management have yet to approve a joint letter between State's Office of International Religious Freedom and the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) that addresses GAO's recommendation. According to the officials, the DRL front office wanted to revisit the letter given the recent appointment of a new Ambassador-at-Large. According to the Ambassador, he met with USCIRF and wanted to provide input to the joint letter, but as of March 2015, the letter had not been approved by State. We followed up again in both August 2015 and August 2016 and were told that no progress on the letter or a joint understanding had been made. In July 2017, the President announced his nominee to be the new Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. As of August 15, 2017, the nomination is pending. State and USCIRF have not reached agreement on a letter responding to our recommendation.
    Director: Yager, Loren
    Phone: (202)512-4347

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To more effectively implement SBA's expansion of OIT field staff as required by the SBJA, the Administrator of the SBA should update SBA's plan for additional OIT staff to include funding sources and time frames, as well as possible efficiencies from clearly defining roles and responsibilities and leveraging other entities' export assistance resources.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: SBA concurred with our recommendations and noted that SBA would work to implement the recommendations. SBA agreed that it intends to respond to staffing requirements of the SBJA while acknowledging resource constraints in its next annual report to Congress. In November 2014, SBA officials said that SBA was in the process of evaluating the impact of Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIP) retirements that took place at the end of September 2014 and was developing a plan for reallocating full-time employees (FTEs). They said that at the end of this process, SBA would have a better understanding of the impact on current and future USEAC staffing levels. In September 2015, SBA stated that it was still in the process of evaluating the impact of the VERA/VSIP retirements that took place at the end of September 2014, and was developing a plan for current and future FTEs. In February 2016, SBA's Office of International Trade (OIT) reported that in the first quarter of fiscal year 2016, it was able to fill the 21st of 30 USEAC-based Export Finance Specialist positions. OIT also reported that it has prepared an updated staffing proposal for the remaining nine positions called for under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. OIT noted that filling the remaining nine positions would depend on their receiving additional agency funding. SBA needs to provide documentation of its plan for complying with staffing requirements in the Small Business Jobs Act, or provide evidence that they have reallocated resources to actually do so. As of March 2017, SBA's new leadership was reviewing agency budget and staffing needs and had not provided us with a proposal for filling the remaining positions.
    Director: Shear, William B
    Phone: (202)512-4325

    8 open recommendations
    including 4 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should consistently collect information that would enable them to track the specific type of assistance programs provide and the entrepreneurs they serve and use this information to help administer their programs.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, USDA noted that its Rural Business-Cooperative Service had implemented procedures to improve data collected on program performance, including procedures to validate data entered into its Guarantee Loan System. In addition, USDA participates in an OMB-led interagency working group convened to share best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance analysis. In March 2017, OMB noted that SBA and Commerce?s Office of Performance and Risk Management plan to co-publish a report outlining several best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance. It will be important for USDA to follow through on the initiatives described above.
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should consistently collect information that would enable them to track the specific type of assistance programs provide and the entrepreneurs they serve and use this information to help administer their programs.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In March 2017, Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) noted that it announced additional reporting requirements for grantees as part of its Fiscal Year 2017 Economic Development Assistance Programs federal funding opportunity that are intended to improve program evaluation. EDA added that it plans to work with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to finalize the new survey forms needed to implement the new requirements with a goal of piloting them in fiscal year 2017. In addition, Commerce participates in an OMB-led interagency working group convened to share best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance analysis. In March 2017, OMB noted that SBA and Commerce's Office of Performance and Risk Management plan to co-publish a report outlining several best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance. It will be important for Commerce to follow through on the initiatives described above.
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should consistently collect information that would enable them to track the specific type of assistance programs provide and the entrepreneurs they serve and use this information to help administer their programs.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, HUD noted that the department had completed its effort to clean up its Community Development Block Grant data and is working to resolve issues with grantees for which costs have been disallowed. HUD expects to resolve these issues by December 2017.
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should consistently collect information that would enable them to track the specific type of assistance programs provide and the entrepreneurs they serve and use this information to help administer their programs.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In March 2017, SBA noted that it continues to evaluate its entrepreneurial development programs through third-party evaluations and limited data collected from their resource partners and will use this information to guide program development. In addition, SBA participates in an OMB-led interagency working group convened to share best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance analysis. In March 2017, OMB noted that SBA and Commerce's Office of Performance and Risk Management plan to co-publish a report outlining several best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance. It will be important for SBA to follow through on the initiatives described above and collect information for the additional six programs identified in our report as lacking information.
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should conduct more program evaluations to better understand why programs have not met performance goals and their overall effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: In March 2017, USDA noted that its Rural Business-Cooperative Service had implemented procedures to improve data collected on program performance, including procedures to validate data entered into its Guarantee Loan System. In addition, USDA participates in an OMB-led interagency working group convened to share best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance analysis. In March 2017, OMB noted that SBA and Commerce's Office of Performance and Risk Management plan to co-publish a report outlining several best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance. It will be important for USDA to follow through on the initiatives described above that are intended to improve the evaluation of programs that provide assistance to entrepreneurs.
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should conduct more program evaluations to better understand why programs have not met performance goals and their overall effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In March 2017, Commerce's Economic Development Administration (EDA) noted that it announced additional reporting requirements for grantees as part of its Fiscal Year 2017 Economic Development Assistance Programs federal funding opportunity that are intended to improve program evaluation. EDA added that it plans to work with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to finalize the new survey forms needed to implement the new requirements with a goal of piloting them in fiscal year 2017. In addition, Commerce participates in an OMB-led interagency working group convened to share best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance analysis. In March 2017, OMB noted that SBA and Commerce's Office of Performance and Risk Management plan to co-publish a report outlining several best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance. It will be important for Commerce to follow through on the initiatives described above and conduct evaluations of the three economic development programs that have not yet been assessed.
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should conduct more program evaluations to better understand why programs have not met performance goals and their overall effectiveness.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, HUD noted that the department had completed its effort to clean up its Community Development Block Grant data and is working to resolve issues with grantees for which costs have been disallowed. HUD expects to resolve these issues by December 2017.
    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and Housing and Urban Development, and the Administrator of the Small Business Administration should conduct more program evaluations to better understand why programs have not met performance goals and their overall effectiveness.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In March 2017, SBA noted that it had taken a number of steps to build its program evaluation function, including (1) hiring its first lead program evaluator in August 2016 to manage new and coordinate ongoing agency program evaluations, (2) drafting a program evaluation framework that will support the agency's efforts to conduct, monitor, and implement findings from evaluations, and (3) creating a performance and evaluation community of practice that meets on a monthly basis to discuss program evaluation principles and address questions for the framework (e.g., data sharing, definitions, learning agendas). SBA expects to start new program evaluations in 2017. In addition, SBA participates in an OMB-led interagency working group convened to share best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance analysis. In March 2017, OMB noted that SBA and Commerce's Office of Performance and Risk Management plan to co-publish a report outlining several best practices in program evaluation, data sharing, and technical assistance. It will be important for SBA to follow through on the initiatives described above that are intended to improve the evaluation of programs that provide assistance to entrepreneurs.
    Director: Scire, Mathew J
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help estimate, reduce, and recover improper payments in the Section 521 rental assistance program, the Secretary of Agriculture should draft proposed legislation for congressional consideration that would grant RHS access to SSA benefits data for purposes of verifying tenant incomes.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2016, USDA had not drafted proposed legislation that would grant RHS access to SSA benefits data.
    Director: Fleming, Susan A
    Phone: (202)512-4431

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To further the goals of public understanding of what Recovery Act funds are being spent on and what results are expected, the Director, Office of Management and Budget, should work with executive departments and agencies to determine (1) whether supplemental guidance is needed to meet, in a reasonable and cost-effective way, the intent of the Recovery Act for reporting on projects and activities and (2) whether that supplemental guidance or other agency-proposed technical assistance dealing with narrative descriptions of awards provides for transparent descriptions of funded activities.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions OMB has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To further the goals of public understanding of what Recovery Act funds are being spent on and what results are expected, the Director, Office of Management and Budget, should periodically (1) review, in partnership with executive departments and agencies, the descriptions of awards--in particular, the narrative fields--submitted by recipients to determine whether the information provides a basic understanding of the uses of the funds and the expected outcomes, and, if not, determine what actions to take, including encouraging agencies to develop or improve program-specific guidance and (2) work with the Recovery Board on the board's assessments of departments' and agencies' data quality reviews to ensure the adequacy of these reviews and further reinforce actions to meet transparency goals.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions OMB has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Shear, William B
    Phone: (202)512-8678

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better address the purpose of the 8(a) program, meet the needs and expectations of the firms in the program, and improve SBA's ability to determine how well the program is working, the Administrator, SBA, should periodically perform a nationwide sample survey of 8(a) firms to obtain measurable program data. At a minimum, the survey should assess whether SBA assistance is meeting the firms' expectations and needs.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SBA drafted a plan for providing individualized business development assistance to 8(a) firms, along with an assessment tool--the 8(a) Business Development Assessment Tool (BDAT). A subsequent evaluation of BDAT revealed that the tool would not provide the expected outcome. Consequently, the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development launched a more broad modernization effort in December of 2011. One of the outcomes of that effort was the conceptualization of the One Track Certification Management System (One Track CMS), which included many of the requirements from the BDAT. However, SBA experienced some delays regarding the contract for development and the ultimate implementation of the One Track CMS. On June 3, 2015, SBA and GAO staff met to discuss the status of open SBA 8(a) program recommendations. This recommendation was mentioned, but, no updates on the current status of this recommendation were provided. The One Track CMS was not yet operational as of the date of that meeting.
    Recommendation: To better address the purpose of the 8(a) program, meet the needs and expectations of the firms in the program, and improve SBA's ability to determine how well the program is working, the Administrator, SBA, should provide a method for collecting data on each firm's training needs for tracking the assistance provided.

    Agency: Small Business Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: With the deployment of the Business Development Management Information System on July 28, 2008, along with an 8(a) Business Development Assessment Tool (BDAT)--which will entail an enhancement of SBA's Business Development Management Information System--SBA stated that it will be able to annually collect data that will be used to assess an 8(a) participant's needs for technical assistance and training. A subsequent evaluation of BDAT revealed that the tool would not provide the expected outcome. Consequently, the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development launched a more broad modernization effort in December of 2011. One of the outcomes of that effort was the conceptualization of One Track Certification Management System (One Track CMS), which included many of the requirements from the BDAT. However, SBA experienced some delays regarding the contract for development and the ultimate implementation of the One Track CMS. On June 3, 2015, SBA and GAO staff met to discuss the status of open SBA 8(a) program recommendations. This recommendation was mentioned, but no updates on the current status of this recommendation were provided. The One Track CMS was not yet operational as of the date of that meeting.