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Certification Requirements: New Guidance Should Encourage Transparency in Agency Decisionmaking

GGD-99-170 Published: Sep 24, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 24, 1999.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal agencies' certification requirements for goods and services, focusing on: (1) the extent and variety of certification activities in the federal government; (2) the extent to which there are policies, procedures, or guidance governing those activities, either governmentwide or within selected agencies; and (3) an agency certification procedure that could serve as an example or best practice for other agencies.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Commerce The Secretary of Commerce should include a section in the conformity assessment guidance being developed that specifically addresses the transparency of agencies' certification decisionmaking. Specifically, the guidance should encourage agencies to publicly explain why particular certification decisions were made or how certification decisions in the future will be made. The guidance agencies should present alternative approaches for the agencies to consider in making their certification decisions more transparent, but it should not advocate that a single approach be used in all circumstances.
Closed – Implemented
In final policy guidance issued in August 2000, the National Institute of Standards and Technology within the Department of Commerce noted the recommendation and, in response, noted that it added a new item to section 287.4 of the guidance to address this issue. Specifically, the guidance says that each agency should "provide a rationale for its use of specified conformity assessment procedures and processes in rulemaking and procurement actions to the extent feasible."

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