The Federal Government Should but Doesn't Know the Cost of Administering Its Assistance Programs

GGD-77-87: Published: Feb 14, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 14, 1978.

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Federal programs of assistance to State and local governments have grown in number during the past two decades, and costs have increased from an estimated $6.7 billion in fiscal year 1959 to an estimated $70 billion in 1977. Because of the growth and complexity of Federal assistance, legislative and executive officials have expressed a need for a better understanding of the program administration.

The Federal Government lacks a systematic method of determining what it costs to administer its numerous domestic assistance programs. Attempts to analyze and compare the efficiency of the various administrative methods used have had limited success, largely because of the lack of systems for reporting information on financial and staff resources used in administering individual programs. The percentage of available funds spent for administration under 72 programs studied ranged from 0.3 percent to 28.5 percent. Use of dollar and staff resources varied considerably for programs of similar size, distribution method, administrative network, services provided, and even within the same program from State to State. These variances reflect differences in methods and efficiency of program administration and demonstrate the need for systematic information collection and analysis. This information could be used to identify programs in which the following administrative improvements could be made: consolidation of small, inefficient programs; reduction of the number of levels involved in administering some programs; elimination of inefficient practices; and application of proven practices to new and existing programs.

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