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: Registries

    4 publications with a total of 12 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Anne-Marie Fennell
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve NMFS' ability to capitalize on its efforts to improve fisheries data collection for managing marine recreational fisheries, the Secretary of Commerce should direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Assistant Administrator for Fisheries to develop a comprehensive strategy to guide NMFS' implementation of its marine recreational fisheries data collection program efforts, including a means to measure progress in implementing this strategy and to communicate information to stakeholders. As part of this strategy, NMFS should clearly identify and communicate programmatic goals, determine the program activities and resources needed to accomplish the goals, and establish time frames and performance measures to track progress in implementing the strategy and accomplishing goals.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, a NOAA official stated that the agency expects to develop a strategy in accordance with our recommendation not later than July 2017.
    Director: Mark Goldstein
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To ensure that NTIA's evaluation of the Internet multistakeholder community's transition proposal fully considers whether the proposal provides reasonable assurance that NTIA's core goals for the transition will be met, the NTIA Administrator should review relevant frameworks for evaluation, such as the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission framework and the International Organization for Standardization quality management principles, and use the relevant portions of the frameworks to help evaluate and document whether and how the transition proposal meets NTIA's core goals.

    Agency: National Telecommunications and Information Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    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: Kohn, Linda T
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    5 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish key requirements for qualified CDRs that focus on improving quality and efficiency. These requirements could include, for example, having CDRs (1) identify key areas of opportunity to improve quality and efficiency for their target populations and collect additional measures designed to address them, (2) collect a core set of measures established by CMS, and (3) demonstrate that their processes for auditing the accuracy and completeness of the data they collect are systematic and rigorous.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: As it has since initiation of the qualified CDR program, CMS continues to allow qualified CDRs to choose what quality measures they will track within very broad parameters. While it has developed a PQRS cross-cutting measure set requirement for physicians using other reporting mechanisms, this requirement does not apply to qualified CDRs. CMS officials report that they have addressed data accuracy and completeness by sharing with qualified CDRs issues and discrepancies that have been found in the data submitted so far.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct CMS to establish a requirement for qualified CDRs to demonstrate improvement on key measures of quality and efficiency for their target populations.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: CMS officials report that they are working to implement this recommendation, but they have not yet put forward any specific proposals to address it.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct CMS to establish a process for monitoring compliance with requirements for qualified CDRs that draws on relevant expert judgment. This process should assess CDR performance on each requirement in a way that takes into account the varying circumstances of CDRs and their available opportunities to promote quality and efficiency improvement for their target populations.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The limited changes for qualified clinical data registries that CMS outlined in its CY2016 proposed rule in July 2015 do not address this recommendation. CMS officials report that they are working to implement this recommendation, but the approach they describe focuses on assessing changes in the data submitted by qualified CDRs over several years.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should determine and implement actions to reduce barriers to the development of qualified CDRs, such as (1) developing guidance that clarifies Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act requirements to promote participation in qualified CDRs; (2) working with private sector entities to make relevant multipayer cost data available to qualified CDRs; (3) testing one or more models of shared savings between Medicare and qualified CDRs that achieve reduced Medicare expenditures with improved quality of care, and (4) providing technical assistance to qualified CDRs.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The limited changes for qualified clinical data registries that CMS outlined in its CY2016 proposed rule in July 2015 do not address the specific barriers to the development of qualified CDRs that we identified in our report. However, CMS officials report that they have provided technical assistance to qualified CDRs through monthly support calls and an annual kick-off meeting held in spring 2015.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that qualified CDRs promote improved quality and efficiency of physician care for Medicare beneficiaries, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should determine key data elements needed by qualified CDRs--such as those relevant for a required core set of measures--and direct Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and CMS to include these data elements, if feasible, in the requirements for certification of EHRs under the EHR incentive programs.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: The limited changes for qualified clinical data registries that CMS outlined in its CY2016 proposed rule in July 2015 do not address this recommendation.