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Highlights

The Senate report accompanying the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) fiscal year 2008 appropriations expressed concern that USDA's Greenbook charges--the transfer of funds authority USDA used to charge the appropriations accounts of its agencies and staff offices for programs to centrally provide certain services--had grown excessively. USDA's Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) oversees Greenbook charges. The report directed GAO to review these charges and USDA to report on them. This report identifies the agencies and offices assessed Greenbook charges, the amounts of the charges, and the programs supported by Greenbook charges for fiscal years 1999 through 2009. It also (1) assesses how USDA selected programs and monitored Greenbook charges and (2) describes the benefits of the programs, as reported by USDA. GAO reviewed and assessed USDA budget and program documents and discussed processes with officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture 1. To help ensure accountability in selecting programs, overseeing Greenbook charges, and achieving program benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct OCFO to establish and document control activities for managing Greenbook programs and charges.
Closed - Implemented
In August 2014, USDA officials provided us documentation indicating that USDA has implemented the recommendation to establish individuals and organizations responsible for the financial health and efficient operation of activities supported by Shared Cost Programs. Specifically, on March 14, 2014, the Secretary of Agriculture issued Departmental Regulation 2236-001, Shared Cost Programs (formerly referred to as Greenbook Departmental Reimbursable Programs), that, in part, directs USDA's Chief Financial Officer to establish and document control activities for managing Greenbook programs and charges to ensure accountability in selecting programs, overseeing charges, and achieving program benefits. Furthermore, the regulation describes the roles and responsibilities of the Assistant Secretary for Administration, Chief Financial Officer, and other USDA officials regarding the financial and operational management of Shared Cost Programs. According to USDA, the regulation was implemented when the Shared Cost Programs Advisory Committee met to review the FY 2014 Shared Cost Programs income recovery plans and charges. USDA's General Counsel also reviewed and determined that the Shared Cost Programs met legal requirements. The Shared Cost Programs Advisory Committee provided recommendations to the Secretary in the form of a decision memo, which was approved by the Secretary on May 9, 2014, establishing the FY 2014 full-year funding for USDA Shared Cost Programs.
Department of Agriculture 2. To help ensure accountability in selecting programs, overseeing Greenbook charges, and achieving program benefits, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct OCFO to track the benefits of Greenbook programs to the agencies and staff offices that are charged Greenbook charges.
Closed - Implemented
Based on documentation USDA provided us in August 2014, including a decision memo from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, the agency has demonstrated that it has a process in place and plans to track the benefits of Shared Cost Programs (formerly referred to as Greenbook Departmental Reimbursable Programs) beginning in FY 2015 and subsequent years. More specifically, USDA officials indicated that the benefits of the Shared Cost Programs to USDA's agencies and staff offices will be tracked as part of the budget process and be subject to review by the Shared Cost Programs Advisory Committee. Shared Cost Program managers will be required to complete a benefits analysis template, which will be modified to compare planned program results to the actual results as each fiscal year is completed. USDA officials stated that the review of the benefits of the Shared Cost Programs is not limited to the budget reviews and will be expanded as needed. These officials also said that the Shared Cost Programs Advisory Committee conducted a series of meetings to review the FY 2015 and FY 2016 budgets for the Shared Costs Programs and the anticipated benefits the programs will provide to the relevant USDA agencies and staff offices. Based on these meetings, the Advisory Committee, as required by regulation, provided recommendations on the programs to be included and their funding for FY 2015 and FY 2016. In addition, these officials said that USDA will address the Shared Cost Programs Advisory Committee's recommendations and provide the recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture for review and approval.

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