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: "Use of funds"

    25 publications with a total of 65 open recommendations including 4 priority recommendations
    Director: Daniel Garcia-Diaz
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Administrator of RHS should develop and implement a plan for ongoing monitoring, including testing and evaluation, of the obligation tool using relevant data. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Rural Housing Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Administrator of RHS should develop controls to check the reasonableness of rental assistance agreement amounts calculated by the obligation tool. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Rural Housing Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Administrator of RHS should develop controls to ensure that RHS uses the inflation rates from the President's economic assumptions in developing budget estimates. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Rural Housing Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Administrator of RHS should provide guidance to Rural Development state offices that specifies that prior to obligating funds, staff are to review information related to a property's mortgage servicing status. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency: Department of Agriculture: Rural Housing Service
    Status: Open

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

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure the availability of Pu-238 and RPS for space exploration, the Secretary of Energy should develop an implementation plan with milestones and interim steps for the department's management approach for Pu-238 and RPS production.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure the availability of Pu-238 and RPS for space exploration, the Secretary of Energy should assess the long-term effects that known challenges may have on production quantities, time frames, or required funding, and communicate these potential effects to NASA.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To help ensure the availability of Pu-238 and RPS for space exploration, the Secretary of Energy should develop a more comprehensive system to track more systemic risks, beyond the specific technical risks identified by individual laboratories.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Timothy J. DiNapoli
    Phone: (202) 512-4841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Director of Human Capital Initiatives should clarify whether and under what conditions DAWDF funds could be used to pay for personnel to help manage the fund.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Office of the Secretary of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics: Office of Human Capital Initiatives
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, and indicated that it plans to take action to address it. Section 822 of H.R. 2810, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, authorizes the use of DAWDF to pay salaries of personnel at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, military departments, and Defense Agencies to manage the fund. The Human Capital Initiatives Office plans to update the DAWDF Desk Operating Guide based on the final legislation.
    Recommendation: In collaboration with cognizant officials within DOD components, the Director of Human Capital Initiatives should ensure that components have processes in place to verify the accuracy and completeness of data on the execution of initiatives funded by DAWDF.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Office of the Secretary of Defense: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics: Office of Human Capital Initiatives
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD partially concurred with this recommendation, and indicated that actions will be taken or have already been taken to address it. DOD noted that it had made significant management and other changes to improve the accuracy and completeness of data used and provided by components on the execution of initiatives funded by DAWDF. DOD noted that it had, among other actions, issued guidance to improve data validity, consistency, and alignment; instituted a midyear program execution review; and established a requirement for a data-driven year in review. The midyear program execution review now requires additional information from components. In addition, as part of the fiscal year 2018 proposal process, components were required to propose hiring by career field. If these management and policy changes are effectively translated into practice, we believe these actions will address the intent of the recommendation.
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve its management of recreation fees, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Park Service to revise its guidance on recreation fees so that the agency periodically reviews its entrance fees to determine whether the fees are reasonable.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its initial response to our published report, the Park Service stated that it plans to revise Reference Manual 22A: Recreation Fee Collection (RM22A). This revision will include a requirement to reevaluate the entrance fee pricing structure every 3 years. The Park Service last reviewed and updated the fee schedule in August 2014. As of November 2016, the Park Service told GAO that it was planning to review its fee schedule on a 3-year cycle, so the next review will be in 2017. The agency also reported that it was on track to update its guidance to reflect this new schedule, but has not yet completed this effort. We will continue to monitor agency progress in implementing this recommendation.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to ensure complete, analyzable records regarding research grant award decisions are available for management and analysis, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics to lead the implementation of additional data collection efforts in coordination with DOD's grant-making components. These should include: (1) Retaining complete records of pre-proposal, proposal, and award data, including a record of proposal disposition, in linked electronic files to facilitate aggregate, statistical analysis of the grant-making process, including the calculation of success rates. (2) Collecting demographic, education, and career information from applicants, on a voluntary basis, that is not available to proposal reviewers but is used for analysis of success rates.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD agreed with our recommendation to implement additional data collection efforts. As of August, 2017, the Basic Research Office (BRO) has drafted an implementation plan and schedule for the collection of demographic data on grant applicants and lifecycle grant data. As part of this, BRO has identified a number of issues to be addressed and resolved within DoD. One of these areas is the protection of any information collected to assess the success rates of women as Principal Investigators (PIs)/co-PIS under STEM Research grants and cooperative agreements. As a result, before BRO proceeds with its planned actions, they are working with the Office of Information Management, WHS, to ensure there are no issues related to the Privacy Act. The agency did not provide a timeline to GAO for when these actions are expected to be completed.
    Recommendation: In order to ensure complete, analyzable records regarding research grant award decisions are available for management and analysis, the Secretary of Energy should direct DOE's grant-making agencies to implement additional data collection efforts, which should include: (1) Retaining complete records of pre-proposal, proposal, and award data, including a record of proposal disposition, in linked electronic files to facilitate aggregate, statistical analysis of the grant-making process, including the calculation of success rates. (2) Collecting demographic, education, and career information from applicants, on a voluntary basis, that is not available to proposal reviewers but is used for analysis of success rates.

    Agency: Department of Energy
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOE generally agreed with our recommendation to implement additional data collection efforts. According to DOE officials, as of September, 2017, of the four components audited at DOE, all four have taken actions toward implementing the recommendation and one component has completed its implementation. Specifically, the Office of Science began collecting investigator demographics during the second quarter of fiscal year 2015 and already retained complete records that enabled the calculation of success rates. Three additional DOE components conducted a joint feasibility study and all concur that it is feasible to collect data on demographic, education and career information of applicants. The Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) revised its approach to data collection and now retains complete grant life cycle information for each individual award, including complete records of pre-proposal, proposal, and award data in linked electronic files. NE is also changing existing data systems to input/track voluntarily submitted demographic information on Principle Investigators on applications to facilitate aggregate, statistical analysis of the grant-making process, including the calculation of success rates. The agency notes that for NE, the completion of the actions required to implement this recommendation is estimated to take up to 12 months. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) participated in the joint feasibility study regarding the collection of demographic data, but have not completed any actions to implement such data collection.
    Recommendation: As NASA begins to collect demographic data on its grant proposals and awards, the NASA Administrator should include the following key components: (1) Retain complete records of pre-proposal, proposal, and award data, including a record of proposal disposition, in linked electronic files to facilitate aggregate, statistical analysis of the grant-making process, including the calculation of success rates. (2) Collect demographic, education, and career information from applicants, on a voluntary basis, that is not available to proposal reviewers but is used for analysis of success rates.

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: NASA agreed with our recommendation and indicated it will begin collecting basic demographic, education, and career data from its research grant applicants on a voluntary basis by the end of fiscal year 2016. In addition, NASA noted it will explore its ability to consolidate proposal and award data as part of the ongoing update to its procurement and grants management systems. As of September 2017, NASA officials reported that the notice of grant award document (form 1687) was modified to require entry of the proposal number on the form in order to capture the linkage between proposal and award. When the transition to the new contract/grant writing system (Procurement for Public Sector) occurred in June 2017, NASA began using the amended award notice. NASA states they are continuing to investigate system options for fine tuning this cross-referencing methodology. However, as of September 2017, there were no stated plans to collect or track demographic, education, or career characteristics of grant applicants in such a way as to facilitate the analysis of success rates.
    Recommendation: To comply with Title IX enforcement requirements, the Secretary of the Department of Defense, which funds STEM research at universities, should direct the Director of the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity to ensure that Title IX compliance reviews of DOD's grantees are periodically conducted.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD agreed with our recommendation and noted it is in the process of revising current DOD guidance which will address its Title IX enforcement requirements. In a conversation with GAO in September 2017, a DOD official stated that the agency is in the process of formulating instructions related to both Title IX and Title VI that they believe will address the recommendation regarding Title IX enforcement. To date, these actions are not complete as they are still in the process of developing appropriate language.
    Recommendation: To comply with Title IX enforcement requirements, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which funds STEM research at universities, should ensure that Title IX compliance reviews of NIH's grantees are periodically conducted.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: HHS indicated it would consult with NIH and initiate a sex discrimination compliance review program that includes grantee institutions with STEM programs. We will update the status of this recommendation when the agency provides documentation that these efforts have been completed.
    Director: Daniel Bertoni
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure the best use of the VA Adaptive Sports Grant program funds, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Undersecretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs to systematically gather and disseminate, to all its grantees, techniques that can reduce the no-show rate at funded events.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA concurred with our recommendation. In 2015, VA stated that it would have grantees report on their policies, tools and experience with veterans and service members who do not show up for events; and measures grantees have taken to reduce no-shows. VA stated that it will analyze this information and disseminate best techniques, tools, and recommended actions to current and future grantees. We will close this recommendation when we receive documentation showing that VA is systematically gathering and disseminating information on best practices for reducing no-shows.
    Recommendation: To help ensure the best use of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Adaptive Sports Grant program funds, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs should direct the Undersecretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs to revise the draft monitoring plan to include guidance on the number and frequency of annual site visits and desk audits.

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: VA concurred with this recommendation. In 2015, VA reported that its final monitoring plan calls for conduct of site visits or desk audits of at least 10 percent of grantees in a grant year. We will close this recommendation when we receive a copy of the final plan for FY16 documenting this commitment.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should direct OGD to develop a timetable with milestones and identify and allocate resources for adopting electronic records management for all 10 regional offices.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: Implementation efforts ongoing. According to EPA officials, the Office of Grants and Debarment established an agency-wide electronic grants record workgroup in FY 16 Q1. The workgroup identified the contents of the electronic grant file, technical options and evaluation criteria. OGD has initiated an alternatives analysis and expects to present the results of that analysis to the Grants Management Council in FY 17 Q1. Once the GMC selects the technical approach, the Agency will identify available funding for implementation through the budget process.
    Recommendation: The EPA Administrator should direct OGD to implement plans for adopting an up-to-date and comprehensive IT system by 2017 that will provide accurate and timely data on agencywide compliance with grants management directives.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: Implementation efforts ongoing. According to EPA officials, OGD is already underway with a multi-modular project to upgrade the agency's grants management IT system (IGMS). Module 2 of 3 is on schedule for deployment in FY17 Q1. The final Module is on schedule for deployment, in early FY18. OGD will incorporate in the project performance tracking of priority directives in accordance with the policy framework of the new Grants Management Plan.
    Recommendation: Until the new IT system is implemented, the EPA Administrator should direct OGD to develop ways to more effectively use existing web-based tools to better monitor agencywide compliance with grants management directives.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: Implementation efforts ongoing. According to EPA officials, OGD has already developed the capability to provide managers cumulative annual baseline monitoring data. Further capabilities of web-based tools, namely the replacement of OGD's primary tool Quik Reports, are on schedule for deployment in FY17 Q1. This effort combined with updates to the Grants Datamart will provide valuable long term enhancements for the Agency's grant reporting needs.
    Director: Beryl H. Davis
    Phone: (202) 512-2623

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To strengthen BLM's controls and reasonably assure accountability over mining law program expenditures, both payroll and nonpayroll, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to establish procedures for regular and timely communication to all BLM employees on policy and procedural changes affecting the mining law program's expenditure-related processes.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In support of closing this recommendation, officials from the Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provided us with an example of its timely communication (dated September 20, 2016) to BLM employees to announce the issuance of its revised Fund Code Handbook (dated August 12, 2016). They also re-iterated their policy about sending updates regarding guidance changes, which is included in its directives handbook. We reviewed the directives handbook and verified that it contains guidance for communicating policy and procedural changes affecting the mining law program's expenditure-related processes. However, we were unable to determine what procedures were established to ensure the regular and timely communication to all employees of policy and procedural changes take place. While we see the directives handbook is a good start towards meeting the intent of our recommendation, we did not see evidence within the directives handbook that requires these communications to be sent to employees within a specific timeframe (e.g., within 30 days of issuance of policy and procedural changes). We will continue to monitor the agency's actions to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To strengthen BLM's controls and reasonably assure accountability over mining law program expenditures, both payroll and nonpayroll, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to develop and implement a training program that provides all BLM employees with an understanding of the use of the mining law program funds to reasonably assure uniform application and effective execution of BLM policies and procedures. This training, to be successful, should be provided to all BLM employees who charge the program and communicate clear instructions on how employees should charge, document, and review transactions related to mining law program expenditures.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agreed with our recommendation. On September 22, 2016, DOI's BLM informed us that the training material that will address this recommendation has been developed and reviewed by the BLM's Mining Law Administration Program and Budget leads. The BLM's National Training Center is currently preparing the training to be posted to "DOI Learn", the Department of the Interior's training portal. Once the training is ready for use, BLM anticipates issuing an Information Memorandum that directs targeted staff to complete the training. At the present time, the training is expected to be ready by end of fiscal year 2017. We will continue to monitor the agency's actions to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To strengthen BLM's controls and reasonably assure accountability over mining law program expenditures, both payroll and nonpayroll, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of the Bureau of Land Management to develop and implement internal control activities for regularly monitoring compliance with expenditure-related policies and procedures in the mining law program. These activities should, at a minimum, (1) determine whether transactions were recorded to the correct subactivity and verified by an approving official and (2) assure that documentary evidence of review is maintained, as required in BLM's policies and procedures.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agreed with our recommendation. On September 22, 2016, DOI's BLM informed us that DOI's BLM is developing a repeatable standardized annual internal control process which will include validation of Mining Law Administration Program (MLAP) expenditure transactions utilizing a "canned" report that is generated from the Financial Business Management System (FBMS), which is DOI's BLM's financial accounting system. This process will be incorporated into an existing DOI's BLM-wide budgetary review cycle requirement, such as the formal mid-year or 3rd quarter fiscal year reviews. The MLAP expenditures report will be distributed to DOI?s BLM state offices with instructions to obtain an adequate sample size from which to test MLAP fund transactions for compliance with Bureau policy. State budget officials will be required to identify their findings, corrective actions and certify the results from this exercise. It is anticipated that this requirement will be disseminated to the DOI's BLM state offices by Instruction Memorandum. The source report to be used for these reviews is still in the development stage and it is expected to be completed by end of fiscal year 2017. We will continue to monitor the agency's actions to address this recommendation.
    Director: James C. Cosgrove
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help improve CMS's process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, the Administrator of CMS should better document the process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, including the methods used to review RUC recommendations and the rationale for final relative value decisions.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: To help improve the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service's (CMS) process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, in May 2015 we recommended that the Administrator of CMS better document the process, including the methods used to review recommendations from the American Medical Association/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC) and the rationale for final relative value decisions. CMS concurred with this recommendation, stating that CMS establishes relative values for new, revised, and potentially misvalued physicians' services based on its review of a variety of sources of information, including the RUC. CMS officials told us the agency continues to improve the transparency of its process by proposing and finalizing changes to the process in the annual rule for the Physician Fee Schedule. Officials also told us that the agency is developing a means of displaying the direct practice expense inputs component of relative values in a consistent manner that will allow for greater transparency and documentation of the process, since currently the RUC recommends direct practice expense inputs to CMS through inconsistent formats that are not conducive to public transparency. Officials estimated that this process will take several years to complete. In order to close this recommendation as implemented, CMS will need to demonstrate that it has improved its internal and external documentation of its process for establishing relative values. As of August 2016, CMS has not provided any additional information about actions to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help improve CMS's process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, the Administrator of CMS should develop a process for informing the public of potentially misvalued services identified by the RUC, as CMS already does for potentially misvalued services identified by CMS or other stakeholders.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: To help improve the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service's (CMS) process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, in May 2015 we recommended that the Administrator of CMS develop a process for informing the public of potentially misvalued services identified by the American Medical Association/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC), as CMS already does for potentially misvalued services identified by CMS or other stakeholders. CMS did not concur with this recommendation, asserting that the RUC is completely independent of CMS, and as such CMS has no authority to set the RUC's agenda for which services are reviewed. CMS reiterated their non-concurrence in February 2016. CMS officials noted that they recognize that some stakeholders, including those who are not participants in the RUC process, may not be aware of the new, revised, and potentially misvalued services that are under review by CMS prior to the establishment of interim final values in a final rule. For this reason and others, CMS proposed and finalized a change in its process for establishing or revising relative values for new, revised, or potentially misvalued services. Beginning in 2016, CMS will begin including proposed values for some of services in the annual proposed rulemaking for the Physician Fee Schedule, which means that the changes in values for these services will be open for public comment prior to them being finalized. In 2017, changes in values for almost all services will be included in the proposed rule for the Physician Fee Schedule. We continue to believe that CMS needs to inform the public of potentially misvalued services identified by the RUC, as the agency does for potentially misvalued services identified by other stakeholders for review. While the elimination of most interim final values in 2017 will allow stakeholders to comment on values before they become effective, we believe it is still important for CMS to inform stakeholders of those services identified by the RUC as potentially misvalued before CMS received RUC recommendations for these services and subsequently publishes the values in the proposed rule each year. Doing so would give stakeholders more time to provide input on values for services if they so choose before CMS included its proposed values in the annual proposed rulemaking, and we worded our recommendation to allow CMS to determine how to inform stakeholders of these services without delaying the timing of its revision of misvalued services.
    Recommendation: To help improve CMS's process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, the Administrator of CMS should incorporate data and expertise from physicians and other relevant stakeholders into the process as well as develop a timeline and plan for using the funds appropriated by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: To help improve the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service's (CMS) process for establishing relative values for Medicare physicians' services, in May 2015 we recommended that the Administrator of CMS incorporate data and expertise from physicians and other relevant stakeholders into the process, as well as develop a timeline and plan for using the funds appropriated by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (PAMA). CMS concurred with this recommendation, stating that stakeholders have the opportunity each year to nominate potentially misvalued services for review through a public nomination process. In order to develop a timeline and plan for using the funds appropriated by PAMA, CMS is assessing the research conducted by two external contractors to determine the most effective and fiscally responsible way to use the funds. This work is ongoing, and CMS is using this work to understand the data collection limitations that exist and help inform the development of a timeline for the use of PAMA funds. CMS anticipates releasing a contract solicitation prior to the end of the calendar year. In order to close this recommendation as implemented, CMS will need to demonstrate that it has incorporated data and expertise from relevant stakeholders and has developed a timeline and plan for using the funds appropriated by PAMA. As of August 2016, CMS has not provided any additional information about actions to address this recommendation.
    Director: Beryl H. Davis
    Phone: (202) 512-2623

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help reduce the risk that improper payment estimates related to DRAA funding developed and reported by selected agencies may not be accurate or reliable, and to help ensure that DOT produces reliable estimates of its DRAA improper payments, as applicable to each administration, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrators of the Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, and Federal Transit Administration to revise their policies and procedures for estimating improper payments by: (1) clearly identifying roles and responsibilities for estimating improper payments; (2) defining improper payments consistently with IPIA, as amended, and OMB Circular No. A-123, Appendix C; (3) requiring payments to federal employees to be included in populations for testing as required by IPIA, as amended; (4) including steps to assess the completeness of the population of transactions used for selecting the samples to be tested; (5) requiring the agency to maintain sufficient documentation to support improper payment estimates; (6) requiring that the sampling methodologies meet the precision requirements outlined in OMB Circular No. A-123, Appendix C; and (7) requiring a consultation with a statistician to ensure the validity of sample design, sample size, and measurement methodology.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: On April 14, 2017, we were informed that the Office of the Chief Financial Officer has oversight over the Department of Transportation's (DOT) improper payments implementation and is revising DOT's policies for estimating improper payments. DOT plans to complete this action by 10/31/2017. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help reduce the risk that improper payment estimates related to DRAA funding developed and reported by selected agencies may not be accurate or reliable, and to help ensure that the Department of Housing and Urban Development produces reliable estimates of its DRAA improper payments, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development should direct appropriate officials to revise its policies and procedures for estimating improper payments by (1) requiring payments to federal employees to be included in populations for testing as required by the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (IPIA), as amended, and (2) including steps to assess the completeness of the population of transactions used for selecting the samples to be tested.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: Overall, we believe the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is on track for taking corrective actions that meet the intent of GAO recommendation. For example, we believe HUD has met the intent of this recommendation with regards to HUD revising its policies and procedures for estimating improper payments. Specifically, we have reviewed HUD's updated recapture audit plan dated June 26, 2015, and verified it requires payments to federal employees to be included in populations for testing. However, we do not believe HUD has met the intent of this recommendation with regards to including steps to assess the completeness of the population of transactions used for selecting the samples to be tested. Specifically, we have not seen where HUD's policies and procedures show how HUD ensures that it is selecting from a complete list of grantee files when conducting tests related to estimating improper payments. On July 19, 2017, a HUD official explained that HUD does not have controls in place to ensure that the grantee files are complete. Further, the HUD official indicated that the grantee files come from the grantee, and HUD relies on the grantees to provide a complete list of files. However, HUD does not currently have a way to verify that this list is complete. According to the HUD official, HUD he will explore options HUD can implement for ensuring that grantee files are complete, including possibly having grantees to sign a statement certifying that their grantee files are complete when provided to HUD. We will continue to monitor the agency's actions to address this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To help reduce the risk that improper payment estimates related to DRAA funding developed and reported by selected agencies may not be accurate or reliable, and to help ensure that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) produces reliable estimates of its DRAA improper payments, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of USACE to revise policies and procedures for estimating improper payments by: (1) defining improper payments consistently with IPIA, as amended, and OMB Circular No. A-123, Appendix C; (2) requiring payments to federal employees to be included in populations for testing as required by IPIA, as amended; (3) including steps to assess the completeness of the population of transactions used for selecting the samples to be tested; (4) providing sufficient procedures for determining an error and what documentation is necessary to substantiate payment; and (5) requiring the agency to maintain sufficient documentation to support improper payment estimates.

    Agency: Department of Defense: Department of the Army
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of June 5, 2017, no updated information has been provided by the Department of Defense. We will continue to monitor the status of this recommendation.
    Director: Charlie Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    5 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To better protect the retirement savings of individuals who change jobs, while retaining policies that provide 401(k) plans relief from maintaining small, inactive accounts, Congress should consider amending current law to permit the Secretary of Labor and the Secretary of the Treasury to identify and designate alternative default destinations for forced transfers greater than $1,000, should they deem them more advantageous for participants.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: There has been no congressional action as of 2017.
    Recommendation: To better protect the retirement savings of individuals who change jobs, while retaining policies that provide 401(k) plans relief from maintaining small, inactive accounts, Congress should consider amending current law to repeal the provision that allows plans to disregard amounts attributable to rollovers when determining if a participant's plan balance is small enough to forcibly transfer it.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: There has been no congressional action as of 2017.
    Recommendation: To ensure that individuals have access to consolidated online information about their multiple 401(k) plan accounts, the Secretary of Labor should convene a taskforce to consider establishing a national pension registry. The taskforce could include industry professionals, plan sponsor representatives, consumer representatives, and relevant federal government stakeholders, such as representatives from Social Security Administration, Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, and Internal Revenue Service, who could identify areas to be addressed through the regulatory process, as well as those that may require legislative action.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In April 2017, The Department of Labor (DOL) reported that it has not allocated any resources to this recommendation and, as previously stated, that it continues to believe that the Department should not undertake to convene a taskforce at this time, in light of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation's (PBGC) initiative, the Department's limited authority, and resource constraints. In October 2016, DOL stated that it does not have regulatory authority to establish a pension registry and could not provide sufficient funding to operate a registry. GAO's recommendation is to convene a taskforce to look at what would be needed to create such a registry. Indeed, DOL's stated constraints are exactly the constructive input that would need to be first addressed by such a taskforce for a registry to be created. The agency further noted that the PBGC is in the process of looking at expanding its own registry of accounts left in closed defined benefit plans to include accounts in 401(k) plans. However, PBGC is only looking at expanding its program, as instructed by the Pension Protection Act, to include accounts left in terminated 401(k) plans. However, in June 2016, Congress proposed that a new national, online, lost and found for Americans' retirement accounts be created, in cooperation with the Commissioner of Social Security and the Secretary of the Treasury, using data that employers are already required to report. Until Congress' proposal becomes law, we continue to recommend that DOL facilitate a taskforce to discuss legal and other logistical questions that would need to be worked out to create a pension registry.
    Recommendation: To ensure that 401(k) plan participants have timely and adequate information to keep track of all their workplace retirement accounts, the Social Security Administration's Acting Commissioner should make information on potential vested plan benefits more accessible to individuals before retirement. For example, the agency could consolidate information on potential vested benefits, currently sent in the Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information notice, with the information provided in the Social Security earnings and benefits statement.

    Agency: Social Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: SSA disagreed with this recommendation, but did seek legal guidance to determine if it is permissible to include a general statement encouraging potential beneficiaries to pursue any external pension benefits in its benefit Statement. SSA's Office of the General Counsel determined that it would be permissible as long as it includes information required by law and the information is accurate. However, SSA continues to believe that adding such information would place SSA in a position to respond to issues or questions about ERISA and private pension plans, which SSA considers to be outside its mission and about which the agency has no firsthand legal or operational knowledge. Also, SSA believes that the current benefit Statement adequately covers the fact that people need other savings, pensions, and investments. Also, SSA sends notices to people who it believes quality for other pensions. In FY17, SSA reported no change in status to this recommendation. We continue to agree with SSA's view about providing information or advice about private pension plans generally. However, SSA's Notice of Potential Private Retirement Benefit Information already directs recipients to contact DOL with any questions, and we would expect that any changes made to make information on potential vested plan benefits more accessible to individuals before retirement - such as including the information in Social Security earnings and benefit statements - would continue to direct recipients to contact DOL with questions about ERISA policy. Furthermore, we continue to believe that individuals should receive information on any potential vested plan benefits prior to retirement.
    Recommendation: To prevent forced-transfer IRA balances from decreasing due to the low returns of the investment options currently permitted under the Department of Labor's safe harbor regulation, the Secretary of Labor should expand the investment alternatives available. For example, the forced-transfer IRA safe harbor regulations could be revised to include investment options currently under the qualified default investment alternatives regulation applicable to automatic enrollment, and permit forced-transfer IRA providers to change the investments for IRAs already established.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of July 2017, DOL declines to adopt this recommendation. DOL noted if GAO?s comments are interpreted to mean that the recommended safe harbor revisions would free plan fiduciaries from an obligation to make a prudent selection among such a broader range of investment alternatives, then it raises significant policy issues regarding the administration of ERISA?s fiduciary duty provisions. DOL also noted that if, on the other hand, GAO's recommendation would have the safe harbor require the responsible plan fiduciary be responsible for prudently deciding whether to use a higher risk investment alternative, employers and other plan sponsors may oppose such a change. Our recommendation does not comment on or suggest changes to the obligations of plan fiduciaries as part of a change to the safe harbor. Further, GAO has made prior recommendations that DOL clarify the definition of fiduciary for purposes of investment, including a requirement that plan service providers, when assisting participants with distribution options, disclose any financial interests they may have in the outcome of those decisions in a clear, consistent, and prominent manner; the conditions under which they are subject to any regulatory standards (such as ERISA fiduciary standards, SEC standards, or others); and what those standards mean for the participant. Our recommendation is to "expand the investment options available" and we have noted that qualified default investment alternatives could be one option. Previously, DOL has stated that the limited investments under the safe harbor are appropriate because Congress' intent for the safe harbor was to preserve principal transferred out of plans. DOL noted that given the small balances and the inability of absent participants to monitor investments, the current conservative investment options are a more appropriate way to preserve principal. However, the current forced-transfer IRA investment options like money market funds can protect principal from investment risk, but not from the risk that fees (no matter how reasonable) and inflation can result in decreased account balances due to returns on these small balance accounts not keeping pace with fees. The reality has been that many forced-transfer IRAs have experienced very large and even complete declines in principal. Our recommendation did not aim to eliminate any investment alternatives covered by the safe harbor, rather it aims to expand the alternatives available so that plans and providers that want to operate under the safe harbor have the opportunity to choose the most suitable investment. We continue to encourage DOL to expand the safe harbor to include investment alternatives more likely to preserve principal and even increase it over time.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    4 open recommendations
    including 2 priority recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should direct the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs to develop a comprehensive workforce plan to ensure that BIE has an adequate number of staff with the requisite knowledge and skills to effectively oversee BIE school expenditures.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2017, the Bureau of Indian Education(BIE) Director reported that an internal working group would draft a comprehensive workforce plan that is aligned with BIE's strategic plan. They did not specify whether such a plan would include a focus on BIE administrative offices responsible for oversight of school expenditures. In late August 2017, BIE officials indicated that they would revisit the strategic workforce planning effort by Indian Affairs. They did not provide further information on what actions BIE will take to address this recommendation. However, the BIE Director noted in May of this year that the agency planned to complete its work on this recommendation no later than the end of 2018. 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 develop a process to share relevant information, such as single audit reports, with all BIE staff responsible for overseeing school expenditures to ensure they have the necessary information to identify schools at risk for misusing funds.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In late August 2017, agency officials reported that it had developed and implemented a SharePoint-based system for sharing single audit reports to ensure that all key staff have access to this system. The agency is exploring other technological options for providing staff with access to single audit reports. The BIE Director noted in May of this year that the agency planned to complete its work on this recommendation no later than the end of 2018. While this is a step in the right direction, as we have communicated to BIE officials, the SharePoint system includes audit reports on fewer than half of all tribally-operated schools. Such reports are a vital source of information for monitoring how schools use federal funds. Without relevant BIE staff having access to audit reports for the majority of tribally-operated schools, it is unclear to us how such a system can support effective oversight of spending at these schools. 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 develop written procedures for BIE to oversee expenditures for major programs, including Interior's Indian School Equalization Program. These procedures should include requirements for staff to consistently document their monitoring activities and actions they have taken to resolve financial weaknesses identified at schools.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In response to our report, Interior stated that BIE already had written procedures in place related to the Indian School Equalization Program (ISEP). However, we found the procedures did not relate to overseeing schools' ISEP expenditures. In late August 2017, agency officials reported taking several steps to address this recommendation. In particular, officials reported that the agency had drafted written procedures for overseeing BIE school spending. However, these officials noted that further review and revision to the procedures are necessary before they can be finalized and implemented. Officials did not provide us with a draft of the procedures to review. The BIE Director noted in May of this year that the agency planned to complete its work on this recommendation by the middle of 2019. 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 develop a risk-based approach to oversee BIE school expenditures to focus BIE's monitoring activities on schools that auditors have found to be at the greatest risk of misusing federal funds.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: In late August 2017, agency officials reported that they had begun drafting a risk assessment policy and procedures for monitoring BIE school expenditures. However, they noted that further review and revision to the policy is necessary before it can be finalized and implemented. Officials did not provide us with a draft of these documents to review. The BIE Director noted in May of this year that the agency planned to complete its work on this recommendation by the middle of 2019. We will continue to monitor Indian Affairs' efforts to implement this recommendation.
    Director: Susan Fleming
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve transparency and provide Congress and the public greater visibility into the types of highway activities funded with Highway Trust Fund monies, the Secretary of Transportation should direct the FHWA Administrator to explore the costs, feasibility, and options for collecting and publicly reporting consistent aggregate project-level spending data.

    Agency: Department of Transportation
    Status: Open

    Comments: FHWA agreed with the recommendation and stated that it was reviewing the feasibility and options for collecting and reporting aggregate project-level highway spending data, and that it intended to complete this review by December 2015. In December 2015, the President signed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act or "FAST Act". Sec. 1402 of the Act requires DOT to annually report, for all projects administered by FHWA with a total estimated cost of $25 million or more (and for all other projects to the extent practicable), on the total cost of funded projects, the amount of federal funds obligated, and other information, and to make this information "available in a user-friendly manner on the public Internet website of the Department of Transportation." GAO is monitoring DOT's efforts to implement this provision of the Act and the extent to which it fulfills GAO's recommendation.
    Director: Katherine M. Iritani
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Administrator of CMS should develop a data collection strategy that ensures that states report accurate and complete data on all sources of funds used to finance the nonfederal share of Medicaid payments. There are short- and long-term possibilities for pursuing the data collection strategy, including (1) in the short-term, as part of its ongoing initiative to annually collect data on Medicaid payments made to hospitals, nursing facilities, and other institutional providers, CMS could collect accurate and complete facility-specific data on the sources of funds used to finance the nonfederal share of the Medicaid payments, and (2) in the long-term, as part of its ongoing initiative to develop an enhanced Medicaid claims data system (T-MSIS), CMS could ensure that T-MSIS will be capable of capturing information on all sources of funds used to finance the nonfederal share of Medicaid payments, and, once the system becomes operational, ensure that states report this information for supplemental Medicaid payments and other highrisk Medicaid payments.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2016, CMS reported that states provide assurances to CMS that they are adhering to statutory requirements, such as the limit that no more than 60 percent of the nonfederal share of a state's total annual Medicaid expenditures may come from local sources. This process was in place prior to GAO's July 2014 report, and in its written comments in response to that report, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) acknowledged that it does not have adequate data on state financing methods for overseeing compliance with this requirement. HHS added that it will examine efforts to improve data collection toward this end. In July 2016, CMS reiterated that it did not consider T-MSIS to be the correct method to gather information on state sources of the nonfederal share. GAO continues to believe it is important that CMS and federal policymakers have more complete information about how increasing federal costs are impacting the Medicaid program, including beneficiaries and the providers who serve them and plans to continue to monitor CMS's actions to help ensure that states report accurate and complete data on all sources of the nonfederal share.
    Director: Mathew J.Scirè
    Phone: (202) 512-8678

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better ensure the viability and safety of manufactured housing produced in accordance with the HUD Code, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development should develop a plan to assess how FHA financing might further promote the affordability of manufactured homes and identify the potential for better securitization of manufactured housing financing.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better ensure the viability and safety of manufactured housing produced in accordance with the HUD Code, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development should strengthen the oversight of inspections and enforcement-related activities by (1) consistently documenting actions taken to resolve recommendations from completed audits and the outcome of such actions, (2) completing a Transition Plan for the monitoring contractor activity, and (3) exploring the feasibility of developing a cost-effective systematic process for collecting and evaluating information on the content of complaints.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that Congress, stakeholders, and agencies have complete information about changing costs and whether a fee needs to be changed, HUD should complete the necessary rulemaking changes to allow the Office of Manufactured Housing Programs to adjust its label fees from the $39 per label toward levels up to the congressionally authorized level that better reflect the current levels of manufactured home production, while considering the impact that such fees may have on the industry; put in place a process for regular fee reviews to determine whether the fees currently being charged will allow the program to respond to spikes and surges in label fee revenue and to identify any factors that may drive label fee revenue instability; and identify any additional sources of funding that may mitigate initial revenue shortfalls and the program's fixed and variable costs.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that Congress, stakeholders, and agencies have complete information about changing costs and whether a fee needs to be changed, HUD should assess the feasibility, including an analysis of the benefits and costs, of putting in place user fees for its dispute resolution and installation programs.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better ensure that Congress, stakeholders, and agencies have complete information about changing costs and whether a fee needs to be changed, HUD should establish the goals for use of reserves of the Manufactured Housing Fees Trust Fund, and the minimum and maximum thresholds for the reserves appropriate for meeting these goals.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: To better ensure the viability and safety of manufactured housing produced in accordance with the HUD Code, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) should develop and implement a plan for updating construction and safety standards for manufactured homes on a timely, recurring basis to include: (1) addressing unresolved issues related to defining and developing sufficient economic analyses tied to proposed changes to the construction and safety standards; and (2) ensuring sufficient resources and capacity within HUD and the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee and its administering organization; or if such a plan cannot be devised and implemented, identify and report to Congress on alternative methods of ensuring the quality, durability, safety, and affordability of manufactured homes, including the possibility of relying more extensively on existing industry standards.

    Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: Mark L. Goldstein
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To provide information on the impact of federal investments in expanding broadband infrastructure, the Secretary of Agriculture should include BIP performance information as part of the USDA's annual performance plan and report by comparing actual results achieved against the current subscribership goal.

    Agency: Department of Agriculture
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: As a result of turnover in IRS's Senior Executive Team and in order to enhance budget planning and improve decision making and accountability, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a long-term strategy to address operations amidst an uncertain budget environment. As part of the strategy, IRS should take steps to improve its efficiency, including (1) reexamining programs, related processes, and organizational structures to determine whether they are effectively and efficiently achieving the IRS mission, and (2) streamlining or consolidating management or operational processes and functions to make them more cost-effective.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: IRS agreed with our recommendation and is taking steps to implement it. For example, IRS has adopted a new, more strategic approach to identify and select budget program priorities. In its fiscal year 2017 budget justification, IRS introduced six themes of its Future State Initiative for tax administration, which in part aims to deliver service improvements across different taxpayer interactions such as individual account assistance, refunds, identity theft, and billings and payments. The budget also linked requested spending increases to the themes laid out in the initiative. The themes were derived from a subset of its 19 objectives identified in the IRS 2014-2017 Strategic Plan. In addition to the future state themes and strategic objectives, IRS has identified enterprise goals to guide the IRS toward the future state. As of December 2016, IRS has yet to set targets for meeting the goals but plans to have targets in place by June 2017. We acknowledge the steps IRS has taken and will continue to monitor its progress as the process is further developed.
    Recommendation: Because ROI provides insights on the productivity of a program and is one important factor in making resource allocation decisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should calculate actual ROI for implemented initiatives, compare the actual ROI to projected ROI, and provide the comparison to budget decision makers for initiatives where IRS allocated resources.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: No executive action taken. While IRS agreed that having actual ROI data for implemented initiatives would be useful, it did not believe it was feasible to produce such estimates, as GAO recommended in June 2014. GAO maintains that IRS should be able to provide some information on past initiatives, such as whether funds requested were used in the manner originally proposed. As of December 2016, IRS officials reported there is no timeline for full implementation. In March 2017, IRS officials confirmed that they do not isolate the revenue attributable to a specific initiative, but pointed to other efforts to help manage IRS's budget, including establishing the Office of Planning, Programming and Audit Coordination and the Planning Community of Practice, which are intended to improve investment planning processes. While these efforts are intended to help IRS act more strategically, comparing projected ROI to actual ROI can help hold managers and IRS accountable for the funding received.
    Recommendation: Because ROI provides insights on the productivity of a program and is one important factor in making resource allocation decisions, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should use actual ROI calculations as part of resource allocation decisions.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: No executive action taken as of March 2017. IRS's Research, Analysis, and Statistics Division has begun to estimate marginal direct revenues and marginal costs attributable to specific compliance projects. The estimates are necessary inputs to establish a measure of ROI, which in turn can guide resource allocation decisions. IRS plans to use these estimates to inform future examination plans, but considerable work remains in this long-term effort. In October 2016, IRS officials reported there is no timeline for full implementation, but that the work is on-going. In June 2016, IRS officials confirmed that projected revenue will be considered in investment decision making as part of fiscal year 2018 enterprise planning guidance, but did not report any progress in using actual ROI data. Until such action is taken, IRS may not be allocating its resources in the most effective way, thus potentially forgoing additional revenues.
    Director: John Pendleton
    Phone: (202) 512-3489

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) and the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation to develop guidance on transitioning enduring activities that have been funded with overseas contingency operations appropriations to DOD's base budget, including a time frame for this transition.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) partially concurred with our recommendation. In fiscal year 2016, the President's budget acknowledged that it was time to reconsider the appropriate financing mechanism for costs of overseas operations that are enduring and that beyond 2016 some costs would endure. It included a commitment for the Administration to propose a plan to transition all enduring costs currently funded in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) budget to the base budget with the transition beginning in 2017 and ending by 2020. However, the budget also noted this transition will not be possible if the sequester level discretionary spending caps remain in place. According to DOD officials, the plan envisioned by the Administration was not submitted since the fiscal year 2017 budget was developed consistent with the Bipartisan Budget Act, which increased the amount of enduring costs funded in the OCO budget. Furthermore, DOD officials stated that the current discretionary spending caps limit their ability to transition enduring costs currently funded in the OCO budget to the base budget.
    Director: Michele Mackin
    Phone: (202) 512-4841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that it receives accurate information on the full effect of funding decisions on acquisition programs, Congress should consider amending the law that governs the 5-year Capital Investment Plan to require the Coast Guard to submit cost and schedule information that reflects the impact of the annual President's budget request on each acquisition across the portfolio--in addition to the current practice of reporting the cost and schedule estimates in current program baselines.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: Thus far no congressional action has been taken on this Matter. We will continue to follow up with relevant congressional committees.
    Recommendation: To help the Coast Guard improve the long-term outlook of its portfolio, the Commandant of the Coast Guard should develop a 20-year fleet modernization plan that identifies all acquisitions needed to maintain the current level of service and the fiscal resources necessary to build the identified assets. The plan should also consider trade-offs if the fiscal resources needed to execute the plan are not consistent with annual budgets.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security: United States Coast Guard
    Status: Open

    Comments: Based on this recommendation, Congress has requested that the Coast Guard develop a 20-year plan that identifies all acquisitions needed to maintain the Coast Guard's current level of service and the financial commitment necessary to achieve this plan. As a part of a series of testimonies in June and July 2017, we found that Coast Guard officials stated they are developing a 20-year Capital Investment Plan (CIP), but the timeframe for completion is unknown. The Coast Guard does, however, submit a 5-year CIP annually to Congress that projects acquisition funding needs for the upcoming 5 years. GAO found the CIPs do not match budget realities in that tradeoffs are not included. In the 20-year CIP, GAO would expect to see all acquisitions needed to maintain current service levels and the fiscal resources to build the identified assets as well as tradeoffs in light of funding constraints.
    Director: Gootnick, David B
    Phone: (202) 512-3149

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to improve the ability of the U.S. agencies participating in the Joint Economic Management Committee (JEMCO) and Joint Economic Management and Financial Accountability Committee (JEMFAC) to conduct required oversight of compact funds, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of Insular Affairs, as Chairman of JEMCO, to coordinate with other JEMCO-member U.S. agencies to have JEMCO take all necessary steps, or, as the administrator of compact grants, to directly take all necessary steps, to ensure that the FSM (1) completes satisfactory plans to address annual decrements in compact funds, (2) produces reliable indicator data used to track progress in education and health, and (3) addresses all single audit findings in a timely manner.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: JEMCO accepted decrement plans from the FSM which addressed one element of the recommendation. However, as of June 16th, 2017 the other parts of the recommendation have not been addressed.
    Recommendation: In order to improve the ability of the U.S. agencies participating in the JEMCO and JEMFAC committees to conduct required oversight of compact funds, the Secretary of the Interior should direct the Director of Insular Affairs, as Chairman of the JEMFAC, to coordinate with other JEMFAC-member U.S. agencies to have JEMFAC take all necessary steps, or, as the administrator of compact grants, to directly take all necessary steps, to ensure that the RMI (1) completes satisfactory plans to address annual decrements in compact funds, (2) produces reliable indicator data used to track progress in education and health, and (3) addresses all single audit findings in a timely manner.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: JEMFAC accepted decrement plans from the RMI, which addressed one element of the recommendation. However, as of June 16th, 2017 the other parts of the recommendation have not been addressed.
    Director: Crosse, Marcia G
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve CTP's ability to operate efficiently, achieve effective results, and plan appropriately, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to establish performance measures that include time frames for making final decisions on SE submissions and Exemption from SE submissions.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: FDA has established performance measures that include time frames for reviewing and acting on some of its new tobacco product submissions, including regular Substantial Equivalence (SE) submissions and Exemption from SE submissions, received in fiscal years 2015 through 2018. However, as of September, 2017, FDA has not developed performance measures for provisional SE submissions, the type of SE submissions that represent new tobacco products that may continue to be marketed unless and until FDA's Center for Tobacco Products finds that they are not substantially equivalent. We are keeping this recommendation open until the agency establishes performance measures, including time frames for making final decisions, for provisional SE submissions.
    Recommendation: To improve CTP's ability to operate efficiently, achieve effective results, and plan appropriately, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of FDA to monitor FDA's performance relative to those time frames, such as evaluating whether staff are performing reviews of these submissions efficiently and effectively.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: FDA has established and monitors performance measures that include time frames for reviewing and acting on regular SE submissions, Exemption from SE requests, and Modified Risk Tobacco Product applications for fiscal years 2015 through 2018. However, because the agency has not yet reported establishing and monitoring performance measures for provisional SE submissions, we are leaving this recommendation open as of August 2017.
    Director: Clark, Cheryl E
    Phone: (202)512-9377

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate IRS officials to perform a risk assessment to determine the appropriate level of Integrated Data Retrieval System (IDRS) access that should be granted to employee groups that handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive taxpayer information as part of their job responsibilities.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to IRS, a risk assessment was performed to determine the appropriate level of IDRS access that should be granted to employee groups that handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive taxpayer information as part of their job responsibilities. However, during our fiscal year 2016 audit, we identified a group of employees at an SCC who handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive taxpayer information and can make adjustments to taxpayer accounts. Based on the information obtained, it is unclear whether the risks associated with these employees were considered in a risk assessment. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate IRS officials to, based on the results of the risk assessment, update the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) accordingly to specify the appropriate level of IDRS access that should be allowed for (1) remittance perfection technicians and (2) all other employee groups with IDRS access that handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive information as part of their job responsibilities.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As a result of its risk assessment efforts thus far, IRS updated the IRM to restrict the use of certain IDRS command codes for remittance perfection technicians. In addition, in May 2016, IRS reassessed the risks at its TACs, including the specific risks and mitigating factors associated with allowing TAC employees to process taxpayer remittances and to adjust taxpayer accounts. However, IRS did not update the IRM to reflect the conclusions from the risk assessment related to TAC employees. Further, during our fiscal year 2016 audit, we identified a group of employees at an SCC who handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive taxpayer information and can make adjustments to taxpayer accounts. Based on the information obtained, it is unclear whether the risks associated with these employees were considered in a risk assessment. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate IRS officials to establish procedures to implement the updated IRM, including required steps to follow to prevent (1) remittance perfection technicians and (2) all other employee groups that handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive information as part of their job responsibilities from gaining access to command codes not required as part of their designated job duties.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As a result of its risk assessment efforts thus far, IRS updated the IRM to include procedures to restrict the use of certain IDRS command codes for remittance perfection technicians. However, the IRM has not been updated based on the results of the risk assessment related to TAC employees and, if applicable, other employees who have access to sensitive command codes and handle hard-copy taxpayer receipts and related sensitive information as part of their job duties. We will continue to evaluate IRS's actions to address this recommendation during our fiscal year 2017 audit.
    Director: Crosse, Marcia G
    Phone: (202)512-3407

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that HHS is adequately and comprehensively assessing HPP and PHEP awardees' performance and progress in meeting the medical and public health preparedness goals of the cooperative agreements, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct ASPR and CDC to develop objective and quantifiable performance targets and incremental milestones that correspond to the new HPP and PHEP performance measures, against which HHS can gauge progress toward the medical and public health preparedness goals of the cooperative agreements and direct technical assistance, as needed.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: Since we examined the HPP and PHEP cooperative agreements in 2012, ASPR had developed few targets for the HPP program measures or their corresponding indicators that were contained in the HPP performance measurement guidance documents issued for Budget Periods (BP) 2-5, ending June 30, 2017. Additionally, the new HPP performance measure implementation guidance for the 5-year project cycle from 2017-2022 introduces 28 performance measures, with few having targets?the guidance notes that corresponding goals or targets may be set at a later date after data from the first budget period of this new project cycle has been reviewed. Regarding PHEP, CDC had developed performance targets for about half of the performance measures as of the PHEP BP5 performance measurement guidance (BP5 ended June 30, 2017). These performance measures generally remain the same, with existing targets, for BP1 (July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018) of the new 5-year budget cycle. GAO recognizes that it may not be appropriate to develop performance targets for every performance measure depending on the desired process or outcome; however, both agencies still have work to do in this area.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that HHS is adequately and comprehensively assessing HPP and PHEP awardees' performance and progress in meeting the medical and public health preparedness goals of the cooperative agreements, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should ensure that performance measures and targets remain consistent across the 5-year project cycle and that any future measures be comparable to determine whether awardees are making progress toward meeting short- and long-term medical and public health preparedness goals of the cooperative agreements.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: Since we first examined the HPP and PHEP cooperative agreements in 2012, ASPR and CDC had made efforts to maintain consistency in their performance measures, particularly in the last 3 years of the prior project cycle which ended June 30, 2017. However, because part of the recommendation includes consistency of performance measures into future project cycles, we also examined whether both cooperative agreements continued to use basically the same performance measures into the current 5-year cycle, which began July 1, 2017. ASPR's HPP has made a significant change in its performance measures, introducing a new set of 28 performance measures for this new 5-year cycle. CDC's PHEP performance measures generally remained consistent in the last two budget periods of the prior 5-year cycle, and remained generally the same for the first year of the new 5-year cycle (some measures were "retired," though key components from a measure may continue to be used by CDC in other types of reviews). As a result of the change to HPP's measures, GAO anticipates keeping this recommendation open at least for the next few budget periods, in order to determine whether HPP maintains consistency with its new performance measures during the new project cycle.
    Director: Gootnick, David B
    Phone: (202) 512-3000

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order to strengthen its ability to collect, evaluate, and transmit reliable information to Congress, the Secretary of the Interior should disseminate guidelines to the affected jurisdictions that adequately address concepts essential to producing reliable impact estimates, and call for the affected jurisdictions to apply these guidelines when developing compact impact reports.

    Agency: Department of the Interior
    Status: Open

    Comments: In a January 13, 2012 letter, Interior provided a status update to GAO and the Congress on this recommendation. Interior stated that it generally concurred with the recommendation and that it would advise the governors of affected jurisdictions of possible guidelines to develop compact reports. In addition, Interior officials met with staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and GAO representatives on January 17, 2012 to discuss approaches to preparing this guidance. Interior targeted a completion date of September 15, 2012 for the guidance at that time. In March 2012, Interior met with three of the four governors of affected jurisdictions, Hawaii, the CNMI, and Guam. According to Interior, the governors reached the consensus that Hawaii would develop a template for developing guidelines by December 2012. Although the completion date was revised, such guidance was not prepared. Section 13 of S. 1237, as introduced June 27, 2013, would have required Interior to identify the amount of compact impact costs in affected jurisdictions for the purpose of permitting the amount of impact cost to be used as in-kind contributions for federal grants. In its statement at a July 11, 2013 Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee hearing on S. 1237, Interior stated that it "has urged the governors [of affected jurisdictions] to develop consistent standards of reporting among themselves, including the definition of FAS migrants, accurate accounting of migrant costs to the affected government, and benefits received by the affected jurisdiction from employment, taxation and consumption." but that it opposed the enactment of Section 13. On August 20, 2013, Interior sent letters to all four governors of affected jurisdictions stating that it was available to provide comments on any guidelines for measurement that the governors may choose to develop and present. Simultaneously, Interior sent a letter to GAO stating that the governing law, P.L. 108-188, does not give Interior authority to mandate either measurement processes or the reporting of impacts to the Congress. Therefore, Interior stated that it was unable to ensure that guidelines for reports to Congress are completed by the affected jurisdictions and that it can take no further action. However, our report found that, though the guidelines were not required under the law, without such guidelines, there were a number of weaknesses in affected jurisdictions' reporting of compact impacts to Interior from 2004 through 2010 related to accuracy, adequacy of documentation, and comprehensiveness. Interior prepared draft guidelines in late 2014, but these were not issued. In March 2016, Interior stated that OIA, in consultation with the leaders from the affected jurisdictions, would develop guidelines for measuring compact impact and that the guidelines would be completed in December 2016. In August 2016, Interior again stated to GAO that the guidelines would be completed by the end of the year, but they were not completed. In September 2017, Interior provided GAO with a draft template for recording costs but stated that, given new leadership at Interior and in the affected jurisdictions, more discussion would be needed before the template can be finalized. We continue to believe that providing more rigorous guidelines to the affected jurisdictions and promoting their use for compact impact reports would increase the likelihood that Interior can provide reliable information on compact impacts to Congress.
    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.