Getting Closure on Our Recommendations

Posted on January 07, 2016
Last year, we blogged about why agencies implement GAO’s recommendations. Looking at our annual Performance and Accountability Report, you can see that we’ve averaged 1,800 recommendations a year with an average 80% implementation rate between fiscal years 2010-2015. This adds up to real savings. In fiscal year 2015 alone, our work resulted in $74.7 billion in savings—a return of about $134 for every $1 invested in us. But what about the recommendations not yet closed? In today’s post, we’re checking up on some of these open recommendations. Tracking down the results We continuously engage with executive branch agencies to ensure they implement our recommendations, following up with agencies and posting the status of their recommendations online.

Figure 3: GAO's Process for Monitoring and Reporting on Recommendations(Excerpted from GAO-16-272T)

This year, we also sent letters to the heads of key executive branch agencies identifying unimplemented recommendations that warrant priority attention. In addition, we work with Congress to make further progress on our recommendations, including incorporating GAO work into legislation. Status report As of November 12, 2015, there were about 4,800 open recommendations and matters for congressional consideration for the 24 largest federal departments and agencies. If implemented, they could result in significant benefits across the federal government. What can closing our recommendations do? Here are some examples:
  • Increase savings and revenues.  With a program as large as Medicare—$603 billion in 2014—closing just one of our recommendations on its payment policy could have saved an estimated $3.2 billion to $5.1 billion from 2010 through 2012. The Navy’s roughly $34 billion Littoral Combat Ships haven’t completed key tests such as shock trials, which evaluate the ships’ vulnerability to underwater explosions. We recommended delaying funding pending more tests, which could save money and produce a better ship—and the Secretary of Defense recently directed the Navy to cut production. And if the IRS had the authority to correct more taxpayer errors as we recommended, that could raise $133 million through 2025, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
  • Enhance services to the public. Chicken and turkey products contaminated with pathogens cause more U.S. deaths than any other food products. In 2014, we found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture didn’t have performance measures with targets for all poultry products, such as ground chicken, to help reduce illnesses caused by pathogen contamination. To help ensure food safety, we recommended that USDA develop certain performance measures—and USDA agreed. However, measures and targets have yet to be established, limiting what information is available to the public and reducing oversight and accountability.
  • Improve federal programs. IT security seems to be a feature of modern life and, since 2010, we have made around 2,000 recommendations to improve federal cybersecurity, but about 840 of recommendations remain open. For example, we recommended that the Office of Management and Budget address agency cyber incident response practices in its oversight of agency information security programs. Implementing this and other outstanding recommendations could better protect federal data and federal agencies’ responses to cyberattacks and data breaches.
Want more? Our High Risk and Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication work highlights critical open recommendations for executive branch agencies and Congress.