GAO follows protocols that dictate how we work with the federal agencies that we audit. For example, agencies should assist us in scheduling an initial meeting (an entrance conference) within 14 calendar days of receiving notice that we are about to begin a new audit.
In previous years, the Department of Defense has had trouble meeting these deadlines. However, we began 49 new audits involving DOD during the second quarter of fiscal year 2020, and DOD scheduled 45 initial meetings by the required deadline.
In addition, DOD communicated with us in a timely manner about unavoidable delays in scheduling the rest of the meetings.
Calendar with meeting time circled
What GAO Found
GAO began 49 new audits that involved the Department of Defense (DOD) in the second quarter of fiscal year 2020. DOD generally scheduled entrance conferences (initial meetings between agency officials and GAO staff) for those audits within 14 days of GAO's notification of the audit, and held the conferences within 30 days. These initial meetings allow GAO to communicate its audit objectives and enable agencies to assign key personnel to support this work.
Of GAO's 49 requested entrance conferences, 45 were scheduled within 14 days of notification and four were scheduled more than 14 days after notification. DOD officials stated that two of these four conferences were scheduled late due to difficulties in identifying a primary action officer or aligning the schedules of DOD and GAO officials. A third was not scheduled because DOD and GAO mutually agreed to postpone the audit due to the COVID-19 pandemic's limiting access to classified resources needed for the audit's work. Finally, GAO requested a pause in scheduling the fourth conference upon learning that the DOD Office of Inspector General had similar work underway.
Regarding when the entrance conferences were held, 48 were held within 30 days of notification and one was held beyond 30 days of notification. For the one entrance conference that was held beyond 30 days of notification, it was held late due to difficulties in coordinating schedules. DOD and GAO mutually agreed to postpone an additional entrance conference until after this quarter since much of this audit work would be classified and, therefore, delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why GAO Did This Study
GAO's agency protocols govern GAO's relationships with audited agencies. These protocols require agencies to assist GAO in scheduling an entrance conference with key agency officials within 14 calendar days of receiving notice of a new audit.
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 and holding 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 second of four reports that we will produce on this topic for fiscal year 2020.
GAO collected and analyzed data on GAO audits involving DOD that were initiated in the second quarter of fiscal year 2020 (January 1, 2020, through March 31, 2020). Specifically, GAO determined the number of notification letters requesting entrance conferences that were sent to DOD during that 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.
For more information, contact Elizabeth Field at (202) 512-2775 or Fielde1@gao.gov.