Department of Agriculture:

Mismanagement of Nationwide Food Consumption Survey

T-RCED-92-7: Published: Oct 16, 1991. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1991.

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GAO discussed the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) mismanagement of the Nationwide Food Consumption Survey. GAO noted that: (1) such data collection problems as low household response rates, complex and lengthy questions, deviation from the planned survey design, lax data quality controls, and inadequate interviewer training adversely impacted the survey's results; (2) the Human Nutrition Information Service (HNIS) should disclose the data's limitations to those who rely on the survey, since the survey's results are the only current data available on household and individual food consumption; (3) USDA stated that it would take such actions as looking for ways to reduce respondent burden and evaluating the survey instruments to correct many of the identified methodological problems; (4) the cost to perform the survey contract increased from $6.2 million to $7.6 million, and completion of the contract was delayed about 1 year partly due to USDA mismanagement; (5) in administering the contract, HNIS and the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) violated internal control procedures designed to protect the public's interest by failing to continuously monitor the contract, communicate with contracting officer representatives, and investigate problems discussed in the contractor's progress report or invoices; and (6) FNS stated that it did not closely monitor the contract because it had a heavy work load and an inexperienced staff.

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