December 2011 — GAO's Comments on the Latest Round of Recipient Reporting
What GAO Found
GAO focused this review on the quality of full time equivalent (FTE) data as reported by recipients of weatherization funds under the Recovery Act to FederalReporting.gov and efforts the Department of Energy (DOE) made to validate those data. Each quarter, DOE performs quality assurance steps on the data that recipients provide to FederalReporting.gov, and officials reported that data quality continues to improve. Through these reviews and their interactions with recipients, DOE weatherization officials concluded that recipients now understand the reporting process and stated that the data reported for each reporting period have been of higher quality than the previous period. Reviewing the weatherization program data in FederalReporting.gov from the second reporting period, which ended on December 31, 2009, to the ninth reporting period, which ended on September 30, 2011, GAO continued to check for errors or potential problems by repeating analyses and edit checks discussed in previous reports. GAO reviewed data associated with the 58 weatherization program recipient reports and 34 training center grants made to weatherization recipients posted on Recovery.gov for the ninth reporting quarter.
Overall, the recipients reported on Recovery.gov that the Recovery Act weatherization program funded an increasing number of FTE positions for recipients and subrecipients from the quarter ending December 2009 through the quarter ending December 2010, increasing from about 8,300 FTEs to 15,400 FTEs over that period. After December 2010, the number of FTEs began to decline because some recipients completed weatherization work as the end of the program draws near. As of the quarter ending September 30, 2011, FTEs declined to about 14,090 as weatherization work was completed and funds spent. DOE weatherization officials told GAO that recipients are reducing the number of FTEs by an average of 200 jobs per month, which will continue to decrease until no FTEs remain by the scheduled end of the program in March 2012. Following Office of Management and Budget guidance, recipients reported on FTEs directly paid for with Recovery Act funding and not the employment impact on suppliers of materials (indirect jobs) or on the local communities (induced jobs). DOE weatherization officials and recipients told GAO that the number of jobs funded by the Recovery Act would be greater than the peak of 15,400 FTEs if the data on jobs funded included the associated jobs from the manufacturers of weatherization products, such as companies producing caulking guns or blower door technologies. Figure 7 shows the changes in the number of FTEs recipients reported from the quarter ending December 31, 2009, through September 30, 2011. According to DOE officials, all weatherization recipients reported to FederalReporting.gov for the quarter ending September 2011.
As in previous quarters, DOE performed a number of quality assurance steps on the data to help ensure the quality of the weatherization program's Recovery Act data. To support recipients' data quality, DOE asks the 58 recipients to report data on expenditures and weatherization production each month in DOE's PAGE system. DOE program officers who work directly with each recipient review the data submitted to ensure consistency. Also, DOE weatherization officials reported that they check data quality for data submitted by the 58 recipients in each recipient report against data collected in internal databases, such as PAGE. According to officials, data that do not correspond to the recipient report are flagged for comment and review. If discrepancies are found, DOE project officers work with the weatherization recipients to resolve them.
According to DOE weatherization officials, DOE does not plan to use recipient-reported data internally, but the officials cited the data's usefulness in providing independent data on the numbers of jobs funded by the weatherization program. DOE weatherization officials told GAO that these data help support the program and its relevance by highlighting the extent to which DOE has achieved its program targets of funds spent, homes weatherized, and jobs funded.
What GAO DidBack to top
For GAO's review of the latest submission of recipient reports, covering July 1, 2011, through September 30, 2011, GAO built on findings from its prior reviews of the reports, which covered February 2009 through June 30, 2011. To understand how the quality of jobs data reported by weatherization program recipients has changed over time, GAO compared the nine quarters of recipient reporting data that were publicly available at Recovery.gov as of October 31, 2011; performed edit checks; and conducted other analyses on weatherization recipients' reports for the Recovery Act. GAO also matched DOE-provided data from the PAGE system. As part of the matching process, GAO examined the reliability of recipient data in the PAGE system with the information recipients reported directly to FederalReporting.gov. GAO's reliability assessment included interviewing weatherization program officials and state weatherization officials and conducting logic tests for key variables. GAO's matches showed a high degree of agreement between funding information from the PAGE system and the information recipients reported directly to FederalReporting.gov. However, GAO observed that for half of the recipients, the discrepancy between the FTE value shown on their quarterly reports and the FTE value derived from the hours they reported to the PAGE system for the same period exceeded 10 FTEs. GAO's examination of these discrepancies and interviews with DOE program officials indicated that the values observed in the PAGE data were most likely erroneous. DOE program officials stated that they track expenditures, but not FTE data, in PAGE. In general, GAO considers the recipient data used in this report to be sufficiently reliable, with attribution to official sources for the purposes of providing background information and a general sense of the status of recipients' reporting on the weatherization program.