Social Security:

Status and Evaluation of Agency Management Improvement Initiatives

HRD-89-42: Published: Jul 24, 1989. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 1989.

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GAO assessed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) progress in implementing GAO recommendations for improving SSA management, focusing on: (1) the status and effectiveness of SSA corrective actions; (2) the reasonableness, timeliness, and completeness of actions in progress; and (3) how SSA planned to sustain the actions and ensure their continued progress and effectiveness.

GAO found that: (1) SSA made a number of organizational changes, appointed a senior executive officer, developed offices for financial management and strategic planning, and developed an agency-wide long-range plan for budget, planning, and decisionmaking processes; (2) SSA initiatives provided a framework for improved effectiveness and accountability, but were not sufficiently mature to evaluate properly; (3) the SSA Commissioner did not appoint a full-time information resources manager to integrate, coordinate and support long-range automatic data processing (ADP) efforts; (4) although SSA restructured so that top management could better understand and control ADP issues, no one below the Commissioner was accountable for information systems planning and integration; (5) SSA did not develop recommended performance standards and measures or establish a focal point for coordinating review and evaluation efforts; (6) SSA increased its focus on productivity, but lacked an institutionalized, systematic approach to productivity management; (7) SSA did not develop the necessary work standards to establish its staffing needs; (8) although SSA improved communications between employees and managers, concerns remained over the effects of continued staff cuts on work pressure and promotions; and (9) efforts to disseminate retirement information and develop future managers were ineffective.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA has developed a unified planning system as part of a strategic planning process. A tracking system to monitor the agency's strategic initiatives is being developed. This system will provide information to compare actual results to original costs, schedule and performance goals, allowing assessment of whether progress is achieved.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should create a system independent of the managers responsible for implementing SSA initiatives to systematically evaluate whether the initiatives are accomplishing their objectives and implement further improvements if warranted.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA has created a strategic planning and budgeting process and a means to track and measure progress.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should develop a process to systematically compare planned with actual program results at the end of each planning and budget cycle and use these evaluations in formulating the next year's plans and budgets.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA has appointed a senior official as the principal IRM official.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the many information systems issues still needing attention are adequately addressed, the Commissioner of Social Security should designate a senior official with full-time responsibility and accountability for information resources management (IRM) reporting directly to the Commissioner.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration


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