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Highlights

Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) information management systems, focusing on: (1) recent initiatives designed to help EPA improve the accuracy, completeness, and compatibility of its data; (2) the impact of data gaps and inconsistencies on EPA's ability to evaluate and report on the results of its programs under the Government Performance and Results Act; and (3) the major management challenges facing EPA's new central information office.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency To help EPA obtain the data it needs to effectively set priorities, assess progress in achieving goals and objectives, and report on accomplishments in a credible way, the Administrator, EPA, should direct the Program Manager of the new information office to develop an action plan that details the key steps that the agency needs to take to ensure that EPA's environmental and regulatory data are sufficiently complete, compatible, and accurate to meet its needs. This action plan should include the office's strategy, milestones, and resource needs to: (1) fill key gaps that have been identified in the agency's information on environmental conditions; (2) identify and develop all needed data standards and implement them in all major databases; (3) coordinate EPA's data standardization efforts with the states, federal agencies, and other organizations that maintain major environmental databases; (4) improve the collection of accurate data by implementing its quality assurance program throughout the agency as well as in the states; and (5) identify procedures needed so that data errors detected in one EPA information system can be corrected agencywide.
Closed - Implemented
EPA completed a strategic information plan containing the key elements GAO recommended. It also developed key data standards, coordinated its data standards efforts, established a mandatory quality system for environmental data, and developed formal agency-wide procedures to provide for easier identification, tracking, and resolution of errors found in the national environmental data systems.

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