Environmental Protection Agency Acts To Improve Computer-Produced Reports

FGMSD-80-11: Published: Dec 11, 1979. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 1979.

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GAO reviewed the need for and usefulness of financial reports produced by three Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) automated accounting systems. The systems were designed to help managers control appropriated funds, monitor states' and local use of grant funds, and control the agency's investment in personal property. They were designed to record all information in a central file from which regional managers could obtain necessary information. The design for one of the systems was approved by GAO in 1977. Approval of the designs for the other two systems was not required. GAO evaluated regional office personnel's use of reports produced by the systems.

GAO found that regional personnel did not obtain all of the information the three systems were capable of producing. Headquarters use of two of the systems was limited because regional offices were either not entering data or entering erroneous data into those systems. The standard reports produced by one system did not give regional managers the financial information in sufficient detail to daily track expenditures, monitor liabilities, and develop sound operating budgets. Although the system included a special feature allowing regional office personnel to design and produce more detailed reports locally, few regions had taken advantage of the feature. Users' conferences held by headquarters managers had not fostered greater system use, and headquarters managers had not independently assessed regional office use of the system. As for the second system, many regional officials felt it was specifically designed for headquarters use and not as a means of obtaining information useful to them. In addition, many regions did not have personnel trained to design and program needed reports. In the case of the third system, headquarters managers had not effectively followed up on known failures of regional personnel to enter financial transaction information and to conduct and follow up on physical inventories of personal property. Overall, EPA was not getting an adequate return in terms of needed and useful information on its investment in design, operation, and use of the three automated information systems.

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