D.C. Courts: Planning and Budgeting Difficulties During Fiscal Year 1998

AIMD/OGC-99-226 Published: Sep 16, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 16, 1999.
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Highlights

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the planning and budgeting difficulties faced by District of Columbia (DC) Courts during fiscal year (FY) 1998.

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Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
If Congress continues to require the U.S. Treasury to pay quarterly apportionments to DC Courts, Congress should consider authorizing DC Courts to retain the interest earned and requiring DC Courts to include estimated interest in its annual budget request. This would alleviate the need for DC Courts and U.S. Treasury to process interest repayments to U.S. Treasury.
Closed – Not Implemented
The D.C. Fiscal Year 2000 Appropriation Act (P.L. 106-113) requires all federal funds to remain with the U.S. Treasury until needed for authorized DC Court activities and eliminates the need for an interest-bearing account to handle the federal payment to DC Courts.
If Congress wishes to ensure that appropriated funds intended for payment of court-appointed attorneys are not used for other purposes, Congress should consider making a separate appropriation to DC Courts for payments to court-appointed attorneys.
Closed – Implemented
P.L. 106-113 established a separate federal payment for "Defender Services in the DC Courts."

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Joint Committee on Judicial Administration The Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should perform all necessary investigation and reporting under the Anti-Deficiency Act related to DC Courts' overobligation of its FY 1998 appropriation.
Closed – Implemented
According to the Courts Chief Accountant, Dana Friend, Judge Wagner has complied with all reporting provisions required under the Anti-Deficiency Act for the Courts FY1998 appropriation.
Joint Committee on Judicial Administration The Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should transfer to the U.S. Treasury all interest earned on appropriated funds or seek legislative relief from repaying the interest that was improperly retained.
Closed – Implemented
P.L. 101-113 authorized DC Courts to spend up to $1.2 million of interest earned in fiscal year 1999 on defender services vouchers.
Joint Committee on Judicial Administration The Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should issue guidance providing that interest is to be paid when vouchers containing or accompanied by all required substantiating documentation are not paid by the required payment date.
Closed – Implemented
The D.C. Fiscal Year 1999 Appropriation Act (P.L. 105-277) subjected DC Courts to the requirements of the federal Prompt Payment Act in processing vouchers for Defender Services. Chief Judge Hamilton issued an administrative order implementing the provisions of the Prompt Payment Act.
Joint Committee on Judicial Administration The Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should establish procedures that require all vouchers to be logged and tracked immediately upon receipt.
Closed – Implemented
According to the Courts Chief Accountant, Dan Friend, the Courts newly implemented voucher tracking system, logs vouchers in upon receipt, tracks approvals of the voucher and monitors payment of the vouchers by GSA.
Joint Committee on Judicial Administration The Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should seek legislation authorizing DC Courts to use the Crime Victims Fund to pay eligible claims under the Crime Victims Compensation Program.
Closed – Implemented
P.L. 106-113 ratified any payments made from the Crime Victims Fund on after April 9, 1997 to the extent the amounts were authorized under the Crime Victims Compensation Act of 1996, as amended.

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