Agencies Should Disclose Consultant's Roles in Preparing Congressionally Mandated Reports

FPCD-80-76: Published: Aug 19, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 19, 1980.

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In a GAO study of seven agencies, outside consulting services were used to meet over 40 percent of the agencies' congressionally mandated reporting requirements. Costs for consulting services represented about 66 percent of the total costs incurred in preparing the reports. Agencies generally based their justification for using consulting services on (1) the lack of in-house expertise, and (2) limited in-house resources and related time constraints. Two agencies used consulting services on a continuing basis to help prepare recurring reports. This action appears contrary to policy prescribed by the Office of Management and Budget. Most of the reports GAO reviewed did not adequately disclose consultants' assistance. In two earlier reports on consulting services, GAO found that agencies were having considerable difficulty in using the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) definition of consulting services. In some cases officials lacked an awareness of the definition; in others, they adopted a more narrow definition.

The use of consultants in preparing congressionally mandated reports is justified in instances calling for unique skills or expertise required on a temporary basis. However, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) repeatedly use consultants in responding to recurring requirements, which seems improper. Action is needed to assure that EPA and HUD officials adhere to the OMB definition of consulting services and follow the requirements prescribed by OMB. Consultants' roles should be completely disclosed in reports mandated by the Congress because these reports have the potential to influence the congressional oversight process and future direction of Government programs.

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