Congressional Oversight:

Challenges for the 21st Century

T-OCG-00-11: Published: Jul 20, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 20, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the importance of congressional oversight and the challenges that face the 21st century.

GAO noted that: (1) future fiscal challenges call for prudent stewardship of the national government to ensure delivery of the services that Americans need versus what they want, and considering what the government can collectively afford; (2) this affordability issue is critical and complex given the current budget surpluses and the approaching demographic tidal wave; (3) consideration should be given to providing enough fiscal flexibility so future generations can make some of their own choices regarding government roles and resources; (4) government performance and accountability need to be enhanced in order to get the most out of available resources and forge effective approaches to both the newly emerging and long-standing problems facing the nation; (5) legislation enacted in the 1990s has provided a statutory framework to help resolve long-standing management problems that undermined the federal government's effectiveness and efficiency and to provide greater accountability for results; (6) the reforms that have been adopted have profound implications for what the government does, how it is organized, and how it performs; (7) nevertheless, these statutory reforms which focused on performance, financial, and information technology management did not encompass all areas of government management; (8) human capital issues are the missing link in the management and accountability framework; (9) to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the federal government will need to: (a) implement modern management practices for more efficient and effective delivery of government services; (b) possess the effective management approaches and tools needed to develop and maintain high-performing organizations; and (c) implement the human capital practices needed to support a focus on performance-based management; (10) to improve oversight, a bicameral and non-partisan oversight agenda should be forged that will meet the needs of Congress, capitalize on GAO's extensive skills and knowledge, and protect the public's interests; (11) this approach will build on the management reforms of the 1990s that facilitate better management of the workloads of Congress, GAO, and federal agencies; and (12) it will also enable three tracks of oversight: (a) looking at programs and efforts that involve multiple agencies and cross committee jurisdictions; (b) examining, across government, various functions that are critical to high-performing organizations; and (c) overseeing the management and effectiveness of individual agencies.

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