GAO’s protocols dictate how we work with the federal agencies we audit. For instance, agencies are required to schedule an initial meeting (an entrance conference) with us within 14 calendar days of receiving notice that we are about to begin a new audit.
In previous years, DOD has had trouble meeting this deadline. However, we began 35 new audits that involved DOD in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, and DOD scheduled 25 initial meetings within the deadline.
DOD communicated with us in a timely manner regarding unavoidable delays (such as federal holidays) in scheduling the rest of the meetings.
Calendar with days circled
What GAO Found
GAO began 35 new audits that involved the Department of Defense (DOD) in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020. GAO found that DOD generally scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days and held those entrance conferences within 30 days of notification, with the exception of audits for which notifications letters were sent by GAO to DOD in mid-December through the end of the calendar year.
Of the 35 requests for entrance conferences, 25 were scheduled within 14 days of notification and 10 were scheduled more than 14 days after notification. Prior to mid-December 2019, two audits exceeded the 14 day scheduling requirement. DOD officials stated that these delays occurred because it was difficult to coordinate the schedules of critical collateral action officers. For audits beginning in mid-December, 8 exceeded the 14 days scheduling notification requirement. DOD officials stated that these audits experienced delays due to the need for additional scheduling time as a result of federal holidays and annual leave plans of DOD and GAO officials.
Of the 35 requests for entrance conferences, 23 were held within 30 days of notification and 12 were held more than 30 days after notification. Of the 12 delayed entrance conferences, one was held 34 days after notification due to scheduling conflicts between DOD and GAO officials. For the remaining 11 audits, entrance conferences were held within 33 to 43 days after notification, due to limited DOD and GAO officials' availability during the holiday season.
Why GAO Did This Study
GAO's agency protocols govern its relationships with audited agencies. These protocols require agencies to schedule an entrance conference with key agency officials within 14 GAO's agency protocols govern its relationships with audited agencies. These protocols require agencies to schedule an entrance conference with key agency officials within 14 days. This initial meeting allows GAO to communicate its audit objectives and enables agencies to assign key personnel to support this work.
In past years, DOD has experienced difficulty meeting the protocol target for the timely facilitation of entrance conferences, and a number of entrance conferences and associated audits have been unduly delayed. The ability of the Congress to conduct effective oversight of federal agencies is enhanced through the timely completion of GAO audits.
In Senate Report 116-48 accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a provision for GAO to review DOD's scheduling of entrance conferences. This report evaluates the extent to which DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days, consistent with GAO's agency protocols, and also held those conferences within 30 days.
This is the first of four reports that we will produce on this topic for fiscal year 2020.To address the objective, GAO collected and analyzed data on GAO audits involving DOD that were initiated in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020 (October 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019). Specifically, GAO determined the number of notification letters requesting entrance conferences that were sent to DOD during the time period. GAO determined the number of days between when DOD received the notification letter for each new audit and when DOD scheduled the entrance conference and assessed whether DOD scheduled entrance conferences within 14 days of notification, which is the time frame identified in GAO's agency protocols. GAO also determined the date that each requested entrance conference was held by collecting this information from the relevant GAO team for each audit and assessed whether DOD held entrance conferences for new audits within 30 days of notification, which was the time frame identified in the mandate for this review.
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