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    Subject Term: "Reports management"

    17 publications with a total of 40 open recommendations including 1 priority recommendation
    Director: Williamson, Randall B
    Phone: (202) 512-7114

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Under Secretary for Health should specify in VHA policy that reviews of providers' clinical care after concerns have been raised should be documented, including retrospective and comprehensive reviews. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Under Secretary for Health should specify in VHA policy a timeliness requirement for initiating reviews of providers' clinical care after a concern has been raised. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Under Secretary for Health should require VISN officials to oversee VAMC reviews of providers' clinical care after concerns have been raised, including retrospective and comprehensive reviews, and ensure that VISN officials are conducting such oversight with the required standardized audit tool. This oversight should include reviewing documentation in order to ensure that these reviews are documented appropriately and conducted in a timely manner. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Recommendation: The Under Secretary for Health should require VISN officials to establish a process for overseeing VAMCs to ensure that they are reporting providers to the NPDB and SLBs, and are reporting in a timely manner. (Recommendation 4)

    Agency: Department of Veterans Affairs
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
    Director: J. Christopher Mihm
    Phone: (202) 512-6806

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Director of OMB should submit or reference agencies' report modification proposals in the President's annual budget as required by GPRAMA.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, the Office of Management and Budget stated it would include a list of report modification proposals in the President's fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget as required by GPRAMA. We will close this recommendation when the FY 2019 President's budget is released.
    Director: David J. Wise
    Phone: (202) 512-2834

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of FRPP disposal data, the Administrator of GSA should implement a data validation procedure to prevent reporting the same building disposal multiple times.

    Agency: General Services Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, GAO reported that government-wide data were generally reliable for reporting on real property disposals for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. However, GAO identified a minor inconsistency wherein agencies can report the same building disposed of multiple times. Specifically, GAO found 132 buildings that were reported as disposed of in fiscal years 2014 and 2015 that had already been reported as disposed of in a previous reporting cycle. For the 2015 reporting year, 121 buildings reported as disposed of were also reported in other fiscal years from 2011 through 2014. When GAO asked about these cases in which buildings were reported as disposed of multiple times, GSA officials stated that the Federal Real Property Profile (FRPP) does not have a data validation procedure that prevents agencies from reporting disposals in multiple reporting cycles. Ensuring that a data validation procedure is put in place is important because without this control, building disposals can be overstated. GAO recommended that GSA implement a data validation procedure to prevent reporting the same building disposal multiple times. In response to GAO's recommendation, GSA developed a business validation procedure and added the following language to its 2017 FRPP data dictionary to prevent over-reporting: FRPP business rule validation prohibits reporting a disposed asset multiple times. An asset that has been reported disposed cannot be reported disposed in subsequent years. Agencies cannot dispose of the same asset multiple times. For example, if an asset was reported disposed by an agency in fiscal year 2014, then the agency should not report the asset as disposed in the current fiscal year. Instead, it should delete the record from its data submission, so that the asset appears in FRPP's missing asset report. In the missing asset report, the agency should note that the asset had been reported disposed in a prior fiscal year. This business rule should result in fewer over-reported disposed buildings to FRPP thereby enabling agencies to make sound real property management decisions based on more reliable disposal data.
    Recommendation: To improve the accuracy of reporting on progress in reducing the inventory of federal buildings, the Director of OMB, in coordination with the GSA Administrator, should establish a procedure to verify that the OMB's reports include the intended data, such as, reporting individual buildings only once and reporting only federally owned buildings.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2017, OMB has taken some initial steps to coordinate with GSA to establish a procedure to verify that OMB's reports included the intended data.
    Director: Chris Currie
    Phone: (404) 679-1875

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that whistleblower retaliation reports are addressed efficiently and effectively, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Under Secretary of DHS's National Protection and Programs Directorate's (NPPD), the Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, and the Director of the Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) to develop a documented process and procedures to address and investigate whistleblower retaliation reports that could include existing practices, such as the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration's recommended practices, in developing the process and procedures.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: According to Infrastructure Security Compliance Division (ISCD) officials, in September 2016 they initiated development of a standard operating procedure for addressing and investigating whistleblower retaliation complaints. ISCD expects to complete a final version of the standard operating procedure by June 2017. According to ISCD officials, the procedure will consider OSHA's guidance, once available, when developing this set of procedures. We will update the status of this recommendation after additional information is received from DHS.
    Director: Melissa Emrey-Arras
    Phone: (617) 788-0534

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should develop a risk-based, cost-effective strategy to verify that states are implementing a process for assessing whether any teacher preparation programs are low-performing.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported adding additional questions about states' processes for identifying low-performing and at-risk programs to its annual state data collection form. The Department reported that this revised data collection form was submitted to OMB in April 2016 and was still undergoing OMB review as of September 2017. In the meantime, Education reported that it is conducting a temporary risk-based monitoring approach to determine how states report information on low-performing teacher preparation programs. GAO will monitor Education's efforts to finalize and implement these initiatives.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should study the usefulness of Title II data elements for policymakers and practitioners, and, if warranted, develop a proposal for Congress to eliminate or revise any statutorily-required elements that are not providing meaningful information.

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that its regulations published in October 2016 included new Title II data elements related to program quality. However, this action is distinct from our recommendation to assess whether existing fields required by law should be eliminated or revised. During our review, Education officials noted that such data elements could only be eliminated or revised through legislation, rather than regulation. Therefore, we continue to believe that it would be valuable for Education to review the existing data elements required by law and submit a proposal to Congress to eliminate or revise any of these fields, if warranted.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should develop and implement mechanisms to systematically share information about teacher preparation program quality with relevant Department of Education program offices and states (including state Independent Standards Boards).

    Agency: Department of Education
    Status: Open

    Comments: Education reported that, subject to available staff resources, the agency would be designing an internal work group to increase information-sharing about teacher preparation program quality within and outside the Department. As of August 2017, ED reported that actions on this recommendation were pending. GAO will monitor Education's continued steps to design and implement this working group.
    Director: Thomas Melito
    Phone: (202) 512-9601

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should reconsider State's INKSNA process to ensure that it (1) complies with INKSNA's 6-month reporting cycle, and (2) minimizes delays in its ability to opt to impose sanctions.

    Agency: Department of State
    Status: Open

    Comments: In its written comments on the draft report, the Department of State concurred with our recommendation while expressing concerns about what it referred to as the inherent difficulties of producing 2006 Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act (INKSNA) reports every six months as required by law. In a July 2016 letter, State noted that it had worked to minimize delays in its ability to impose sanctions pursuant to INKSNA reports and that it aims to eventually comply with INKSNA's six-month reporting cycle as it clears the existing backlog of INKSNA cases. Moreover, it noted that State had transmitted three INKSNA reports covering three years of activity (the latest covering calendar year 2013) within the last 18 months as evidence that it was making progress towards meeting the GAO recommendation. In 2017, State informed us that it was regularly reviewing lessons learned from previous reports and incorporating best practices into follow-on iterations of INKSNA reports. For example, it informed us, it had now streamlined the decision-making process to reduce the workload in making sanctions determinations by modifying the INKSNA decision and background memo to consolidate certain cases on which the interagency has achieved consensus recommendations, thereby simplifying the review and approval process. State reiterated its intention to eventually comply with INKSNA?s six-month reporting cycle as it clears the existing backlog. GAO will continue monitoring State's efforts to fully implement the recommendation.
    Director: David Gootnick
    Phone: (202) 512-3149

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve USAID's ability to measure progress in achieving a quantitative reading goal in any future education strategy, the Acting USAID Administrator should ensure that the future strategy includes targets that will allow USAID to monitor interim progress toward its goal in comparison with planned performance.

    Agency: United States Agency for International Development
    Status: Open

    Comments: In written comments on the report, USAID agreed to implement GAO's recommendation. USAID told GAO in August 2015 that a new Education Strategy will continue to focus on primary grade reading through 2020. The current strategy was scheduled to end in December 2015. USAID noted that as it expands its body of knowledge surrounding achievements of current reading projects, it will be better able to set achievable project and country level targets and report interim progress toward the new strategy's aggregate primary grade reading goal. USAID announced on August 28, 2017 that it has extended the 2011-2015 Education Strategy until December 2017, to allow adequate time for development of a new strategy with "the full backing and ownership of the new Administration." This recommendation will be applicable once USAID establishes a new strategy with new targets. According to a USAID official, as of September 14, 2017, the current strategy remains extended through December 2017. We will continue to monitor this recommendation.
    Director: Melvin, Valerie C
    Phone: (202) 512-6304

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the management of DHS FOIA requests, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to improve reporting of FOIA costs by including salaries, employee benefits, non-personnel direct costs, indirect costs, and costs for other offices.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In responding to our recommendation, DHS said it has developed a spreadsheet that is to be used by its components to track FOIA costs. However, as of September 2017, DHS has not yet provided information containing such details as when its components will be required to use the spreadsheet and if the spreadsheet is to track all the categories of costs discussed in our report. We plan to update the status of this recommendation when DHS provides documentation that further explains, and confirms the department's use of, the spreadsheet.
    Recommendation: To improve the management of DHS FOIA requests, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to direct USCIS and Coast Guard to fully implement the recommended FOIA processing system capabilities and the section 508 requirement.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: In response to our recommendation, DHS issued a memo to all of the department's FOIA officers in March 2015 which focused on ensuring that each component's FOIA processing systems are 508 compliant. However, as of September 2017, DHS has not yet provided us with evidence that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Coast Guard have implemented system capabilities that are 508 compliant. When DHS provides information concerning its actions taken to make the systems compliant, we will update the status of the recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the management of DHS FOIA requests, the Secretary of DHS should direct the Chief FOIA Officer to determine the viability of re-establishing the service-level agreement between the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to eliminate duplication in the processing of immigration files. If the benefits of doing so would exceed the costs, re-establish the agreement.

    Agency: Department of Homeland Security
    Status: Open

    Comments: DHS has stated that it is taking steps to determine if the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will re-establish the service-level agreement to process FOIA requests related to immigration files. In addition, the department has stated that duplication no longer exists in the processing of these type of requests. However, DHS has not yet provided evidence, such as a cost-benefit analysis, that could demonstrate the steps it is taking regarding the service-level agreement. Further, GAO has not yet received evidence from the department to support its assertion that duplication no longer exists in the processing of immigration files. We will update the status of this recommendation when DHS provides documentation.
    Director: Charlie Jeszeck
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve IRS's enforcement and compliance efforts, decrease the administrative and financial burden of maintaining both electronic and paper-based form processing systems, and reduce plan reporting costs, Congress should consider providing the Department of the Treasury with the authority to require that the Form 5500 series be filed electronically.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of 5/31/17, Congress has taken no action.
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness, reliability, and comparability of Form 5500 data for all stakeholders while limiting the burden on the filing community, the Secretaries of DOL and Treasury, and the Director of PBGC should consider implementing the findings from our panel when modifying plan investment and service provider fee information, including: (1) revising Schedule H plan asset categories to better match current investment vehicles and provide more transparency into plan investments; (2) revising the Schedule of Assets attachments to create a standard searchable format; (3) developing a central repository for EIN and PN numbers for filers and service providers to improve the comparability of form data across filings; (4) clarifying Schedule C instructions for direct, eligible indirect, and reportable indirect compensation so plan fees are reported more consistently and, as we recommended in the past, better align with the 408(b)(2) fee disclosures; and (5) simplifying and clarify Schedule C service provider codes to increase reporting consistency.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, DOL in coordination with IRS and PBGC has implemented cross-year edit checks into EFAST in an effort to improve the consistency in key identifying information, such as the EIN, Plan Number and Plan Name. These checks aim to verify identifying information submitted on the Form 5500 and to notify the filer and government agencies of inconsistencies, which affords filers the ability to review and modify crucial identifying information prior to submission. Additionally, if the filer chooses to submit data that may contain inconsistent information, the edit test indicators provide government users with the ability to more readily detect filings containing potential errors in the identifying information for further review and correction. DOL has also collaborated with PBGC and IRS in issuing proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Series in a Notice of Proposed Forms Revisions. The deadline for public comment ended December 5, 2016. The proposed revisions in the Notice reflect efforts of DOL, IRS, and PBGC to improve the Form 5500 reporting for filers, the public, and the agencies by among other things, (1) modernizing financial information filed by regarding plans; (2) updating fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirement with DOL's 408(b)(2); financial disclosure requirements; (3) enhancing the ability to mine data files on annual returns/reports; and (4) improving compliance with ERISA and the Code through selected new questions regarding plan operation, service provider relationships, and financial management of plans. Specifically, in the Notice the agencies propose that Schedule H report assets held and assets disposed of during the plan year to provide more transparency and a more complete report of plan's annual investments and that that the Schedule of Assets be revised to require reporting of assets held through direct filing entities. Additionally, the agencies are proposing revisions to the Schedule H, Schedule of Assets that require filers to complete standardized Schedules in a format enabling data to captured electronically. This requirement would enable importation of information from the Schedules of Assets into structured databases that DOL would make available to the public from each year's Form 5500 Series filing. The agencies are also proposing to add clarifying definitions and instructions to improve the consistency of Form 5000 responses. This includes clarification of conventions to identify filers by name and identifying numbers to help mitigate confusion about legal identities with which plans transact and improve comparability of form data across filings. In addition, the agencies also propose revisions to Schedule C to require reporting of indirect compensation for service provider subject to 408(b)(2) requirements and for all compensation that is required to be disclosed. Further, the Schedule C instructions would be clarified to track more closely with the language of the 408(b)(2) regulations. The agencies are also proposing to limit the codes for Schedule C and requiring the filer to more simply indicate all types of services for each provider identified. Additionally, they propose a requirement to indicate all the types of fees/compensation separately when reporting sources of compensation from parties other than plan and plan sponsor. The agencies are reviewing the public comments and expect the process to continue through 2017. While the Agencies have made considerable efforts to address our recommendation in the proposed revisions to the Form 5500, they have not made any decisions on whether to make changes to the forms or DOL regulations, and have not decided on a timeline for implementation of any changes to the form or DOL regulations that the Agencies ultimately may decide to adopt. We will close this recommendation once the revision is final.
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness, reliability, and comparability of Form 5500 data for all stakeholders while limiting the burden on the filing community, the Secretaries of DOL and Treasury, and the Director of PBGC should consider implementing the findings from our panel when modifying plan investment and service provider fee information, including: (1) revising Schedule H plan asset categories to better match current investment vehicles and provide more transparency into plan investments; (2) revising the Schedule of Assets attachments to create a standard searchable format; (3) developing a central repository for EIN and PN numbers for filers and service providers to improve the comparability of form data across filings; (4) clarifying Schedule C instructions for direct, eligible indirect, and reportable indirect compensation so plan fees are reported more consistently and, as we recommended in the past, better align with the 408(b)(2) fee disclosures; and (5) simplifying and clarify Schedule C service provider codes to increase reporting consistency.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, DOL in coordination with IRS and PBGC has implemented cross-year edit checks into EFAST in an effort to improve the consistency in key identifying information, such as the EIN, Plan Number and Plan Name. These checks aim to verify identifying information submitted on the Form 5500 and to notify the filer and government agencies of inconsistencies, which affords filers the ability to review and modify crucial identifying information prior to submission. Additionally, if the filer chooses to submit data that may contain inconsistent information, the edit test indicators provide government users with the ability to more readily detect filings containing potential errors in the identifying information for further review and correction. IRS has also collaborated with DOL and PBGC in issuing proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Series in a Notice of Proposed Forms Revisions. The deadline for public comment ended December 5, 2016. The proposed revisions in the Notice reflect efforts of DOL, IRS, and PBGC to improve the Form 5500 reporting for filers, the public, and the agencies by among other things, (1) modernizing financial information filed by regarding plans; (2) updating fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirement with DOL's 408(b)(2); financial disclosure requirements; (3) enhancing the ability to mine data files on annual returns/reports; and (4) improving compliance with ERISA and the Code through selected new questions regarding plan operation, service provider relationships, and financial management of plans. Specifically, in the Notice the agencies propose that Schedule H report assets held and assets disposed of during the plan year to provide more transparency and a more complete report of plan's annual investments and that that the Schedule of Assets be revised to require reporting of assets held through direct filing entities. Additionally, the agencies are proposing revisions to the Schedule H, Schedule of Assets that require filers to complete standardized Schedules in a format enabling data to captured electronically. This requirement would enable importation of information from the Schedules of Assets into structured databases that DOL would make available to the public from each year's Form 5500 Series filing. The agencies are also proposing to add clarifying definitions and instructions to improve the consistency of Form 5000 responses. This includes clarification of conventions to identify filers by name and identifying numbers to help mitigate confusion about legal identities with which plans transact and improve comparability of form data across filings. In addition, the agencies also propose revisions to Schedule C to require reporting of indirect compensation for service provider subject to 408(b)(2) requirements and for all compensation that is required to be disclosed. Further, the Schedule C instructions would be clarified to track more closely with the language of the 408(b)(2) regulations. The agencies are also proposing to limit the codes for Schedule C and requiring the filer to more simply indicate all types of services for each provider identified. Additionally, they propose a requirement to indicate all the types of fees/compensation separately when reporting sources of compensation from parties other than plan and plan sponsor. The agencies are reviewing the public comments and expect the process to continue through 2017. While the Agencies have made considerable efforts to address our recommendation in the proposed revisions to the Form 5500, they have not made any decisions on whether to make changes to the forms or DOL regulations, and have not decided on a timeline for implementation of any changes to the form or DOL regulations that the Agencies ultimately may decide to adopt. We will close this recommendation once the revision is final.
    Recommendation: To improve the usefulness, reliability, and comparability of Form 5500 data for all stakeholders while limiting the burden on the filing community, the Secretaries of DOL and Treasury, and the Director of PBGC should consider implementing the findings from our panel when modifying plan investment and service provider fee information, including: (1) revising Schedule H plan asset categories to better match current investment vehicles and provide more transparency into plan investments; (2) revising the Schedule of Assets attachments to create a standard searchable format; (3) developing a central repository for EIN and PN numbers for filers and service providers to improve the comparability of form data across filings; (4) clarifying Schedule C instructions for direct, eligible indirect, and reportable indirect compensation so plan fees are reported more consistently and, as we recommended in the past, better align with the 408(b)(2) fee disclosures; and (5) simplifying and clarify Schedule C service provider codes to increase reporting consistency.

    Agency: Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2016, DOL in coordination with IRS and PBGC has implemented cross-year edit checks into EFAST in an effort to improve the consistency in key identifying information, such as the EIN, Plan Number and Plan Name. These checks aim to verify identifying information submitted on the Form 5500 and to notify the filer and government agencies of inconsistencies, which affords filers the ability to review and modify crucial identifying information prior to submission. Additionally, if the filer chooses to submit data that may contain inconsistent information, the edit test indicators provide government users with the ability to more readily detect filings containing potential errors in the identifying information for further review and correction. PBDC has also collaborated with DOL and IRS in issuing proposed revisions to the Form 5500 Series in a Notice of Proposed Forms Revisions. The deadline for public comment ended December 5, 2016. The proposed revisions in the Notice reflect efforts of DOL, IRS, and PBGC to improve the Form 5500 reporting for filers, the public, and the agencies by among other things, (1) modernizing financial information filed by regarding plans; (2) updating fee and expense information on plan service providers with a focus on harmonizing annual reporting requirement with DOL's 408(b)(2); financial disclosure requirements; (3) enhancing the ability to mine data files on annual returns/reports; and (4) improving compliance with ERISA and the Code through selected new questions regarding plan operation, service provider relationships, and financial management of plans. Specifically, in the Notice the agencies propose that Schedule H report assets held and assets disposed of during the plan year to provide more transparency and a more complete report of plan's annual investments and that that the Schedule of Assets be revised to require reporting of assets held through direct filing entities. Additionally, the agencies are proposing revisions to the Schedule H, Schedule of Assets that require filers to complete standardized Schedules in a format enabling data to captured electronically. This requirement would enable importation of information from the Schedules of Assets into structured databases that DOL would make available to the public from each year's Form 5500 Series filing. The agencies are also proposing to add clarifying definitions and instructions to improve the consistency of Form 5000 responses. This includes clarification of conventions to identify filers by name and identifying numbers to help mitigate confusion about legal identities with which plans transact and improve comparability of form data across filings. In addition, the agencies also propose revisions to Schedule C to require reporting of indirect compensation for service provider subject to 408(b)(2) requirements and for all compensation that is required to be disclosed. Further, the Schedule C instructions would be clarified to track more closely with the language of the 408(b)(2) regulations. The agencies are also proposing to limit the codes for Schedule C and requiring the filer to more simply indicate all types of services for each provider identified. Additionally, they propose a requirement to indicate all the types of fees/compensation separately when reporting sources of compensation from parties other than plan and plan sponsor. The agencies are reviewing the public comments and expect the process to continue through 2017. While the Agencies have made considerable efforts to address our recommendation in the proposed revisions to the Form 5500, they have not made any decisions on whether to make changes to the forms or DOL regulations, and have not decided on a timeline for implementation of any changes to the form or DOL regulations that the Agencies ultimately may decide to adopt. We will close this recommendation once any revision are made final.
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: If Congress agrees that significant paid preparer errors exist, it should consider legislation granting IRS the authority to regulate paid tax preparers.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: In 2017, several bills were introduced in Congress that would authorize the Department of Treasury to regulate paid tax return preparers. As of September 2017, no action has been taken on any of the bills. GAO testified on October 1, 2015 on improper payments and the tax gap before Senate Finance and on December 10, 2015 on GAO recommendations before the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, US Senate. Both hearings increased attention to GAO's matter to Congress that tax preparers be regulated. Paid preparer regulation may increase the accuracy of tax returns and potentially reduce the tax gap.
    Director: David Gootnick
    Phone: (202) 512-3149

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve policymakers' and the public's understanding of progress through bilateral dialogues in increasing access to China's markets, the U.S. Trade Representative, in conjunction with the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of the Treasury, should work to provide clearer and more comprehensive reporting on the status of China's implementation of its JCCT and S&ED trade and investment commitments. This reporting should include more complete information on the status of implementation of these commitments, as well as a more clearly identified source for consolidated information, which could be an existing report.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
    Status: Open

    Comments: USTR has taken steps to implement this recommendation, but additional information on the status of specific commitments would further improve understanding of progress in these bilateral dialogues. USTR made changes to the Chinese trade barriers reporting in its 2014 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE report) to align more closely with other Congressional reports prepared by USTR on related issues. USTR also provided updated information in that NTE report on China's compliance with a commitment that had not been reported on in earlier reports. Further, USTR identified the Report to Congress on China's WTO Compliance as the one report among the various annual reports prepared by USTR that provides comprehensive information on the status of the trade and investment commitments that China has made through the U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT) and the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED). As of July 2017, GAO is continuing to track agency progress in reporting on these commitments.
    Director: Jeszeck, Charles A
    Phone: (202) 512-7215

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase the accuracy of "potential private pension benefit information" notices that SSA sends to Social Security claimants, Congress should consider legislation shifting responsibility and necessary resources to Labor for (a) electronically collecting form 8955-SSA information on participants' deferred vested benefits, (b) maintaining an accurate federal database of those benefits, and (c) periodically sending SSA accurate information about such benefits for recent Social Security claimants identified by SSA, so that SSA may provide notices to retirees.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of September 2017, no congressional action has been taken in response to this recommendation.
    Recommendation: To ease the burden on plan sponsors, enhance compliance, and help ensure that disclosures to participants are written in a manner that can be understood by the average participant, Labor, IRS, and PBGC should work together to create and regularly update a comprehensive online tool for plan sponsors to search for the reports and disclosures they are required to provide based on plan type, design, and circumstances.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: In November 2013, Labor officials said that they would consult with their colleagues at the Treasury Department/IRS and PBGC regarding creation of one unified online tool for plan adminstrators to search for the reports and disclosures they are required to submit based on a plan's type, design, and circumstances. However, in FY 2014, officials indicated that, although they will continue to consult with their other agency colleagues regarding creation of such a tool, they now tentativley disagree with the recommendation and believe that such a tool could be confusing, especially for small employers. In 2015, Labor raised concerns about this recommendation, continuing to question whether a unified tri-agency online tool would be valuable for sponsors of large pension plans and may be confusing to some plan sponsors, especially small employers. They further noted that they do not believe it would be appropriate for EBSA to adjust its regulatory or guidance priorities at this time or reallocate resources currently dedicated to other priority projects in order to further explore any possible merit of such an online tool. GAO continues to believe just the opposite, that a well-designed comprehensive online tool could be very helpful, especially for small employers. In FY 17, Labor reiterated its opinions from previous years.
    Recommendation: To ease the burden on plan sponsors, enhance compliance, and help ensure that disclosures to participants are written in a manner that can be understood by the average participant, Labor, IRS, and PBGC should work together to create and regularly update a comprehensive online tool for plan sponsors to search for the reports and disclosures they are required to provide based on plan type, design, and circumstances.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS officials initially noted that they are continuing their efforts to ensure that plan sponsors have access to comprehensive and up-to-date online resources. They said they had met with Labor and PBGC officials to discuss the value and feasibility of developing and maintaining a comprehensive online tool. However, with decreased resources, they believe it is unlikely for the agency to create and regularly update such a tool. However, they would continue to confer with Labor and PBGC colleagues to determine if it is possible to cross-reference existing agency resources online. As of September 2017, IRS has not provided an update on its efforts. GAO continues to believe that such a tool would be beneficial to plan sponsors of all sizes.
    Recommendation: To ease the burden on plan sponsors, enhance compliance, and help ensure that disclosures to participants are written in a manner that can be understood by the average participant, Labor, IRS, and PBGC should work together to define criteria for complying with the readability provisions in ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and apply the criteria to agency-generated model notices as well as those developed by plan sponsors. As part of these criteria, consider requiring clear, simple, brief highlights at the beginning of disclosures, reflecting federal plain language guidelines.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: Labor officials stated that, while sensitive to plan sponsor concerns regarding liabilities that may result from ambiguities that arise when complex information is summarized using plain English criteria, they will, nevertheless, explore the application of readability standards in this context. Officials indicated they may decide it would be helpful to engage a contractor and undertake a survey or other data collection in order to evaluate this recommendation, but do not have resources budgeted in FY 2014 for such an exercise. In the meantime, they plan to continue to use modern communication techniques (such as focus group testing) to improve the effectiveness of their model notices and other standardized disclosures. In 2015, Labor reported that they need to explore the application of readability standards in light of concerns about liabilities that may result from ambiguities when complex information is summarized or presented using "plain English" criteria. Contracting for data collection would help them make an informed evaluation of this recommendation but they do not have the budgeted resources and believe it would not be appropriate to adjust priorities or reallocate resources. They will use techniques such as focus group testing to improve the effectiveness model notices and other standardized disclosures. GAO continues to believe it is important to implement a requirement to have clear, simple, brief highlights. In FY 17, Labor noted that the agency had not yet made a decision regarding future rulemaking and had suggested that the ERISA advisory counsel look at the effectiveness of disclosures.
    Recommendation: To ease the burden on plan sponsors, enhance compliance, and help ensure that disclosures to participants are written in a manner that can be understood by the average participant, Labor, IRS, and PBGC should work together to define criteria for complying with the readability provisions in ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), and apply the criteria to agency-generated model notices as well as those developed by plan sponsors. As part of these criteria, consider requiring clear, simple, brief highlights at the beginning of disclosures, reflecting federal plain language guidelines.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS officials said that they are committed to using the Federal Plain Language Guidelines as a resource in preparing model disclosures and that they will consider including brief highlights at the beginning of model disclosures. They said that it is unclear that imposing defined readability criteria on employer and plan communications is in the best interests of plan participants, administrators, sponsors, and the retirement system as a whole. However, they do see merit in directing employers and plan sponsors to the Guidelines as a resource for developing readable notices and disclosures, and are considering how best to communicate that resource to stakeholders. As of September 2017, IRS has not provided an update on these efforts.
    Recommendation: To better ensure plan participants have access to information about their rights and benefits, as currently in force under their plans, Labor should direct plan sponsors to post to any intranet website maintained by the employer, as soon as determined feasible by Labor, a copy of the most current summary plan description (SPD) and any summary of material modifications issued subsequent to that SPD.

    Agency: Department of Labor
    Status: Open

    Comments: Labor officials said that they generally support implementing such a requirement, subject to a legal determination of their authority absent legislation to issue such a directive. However, rather than addressing the recommendation as a stand-alone item, they believe it would be better to consider the benefits of such an intranet posting requirement in connection with efforts to expand or modify disclosure standards in response to their 2011 Request for Information (RFI) regarding electronic disclosure. Moreover, officials noted that, during FY 2014, Labor was focusing its regulatory resources on other higher priority projects and did not have a specific timeline for any next action on e-disclosure issues. In their 2015 response, Labor reiterated their agreement from agency comments. Based on comments from their RFI, they understand that many plan sponsors, especially those that have intranet websites, already post plan-related information for employees and that input from consumer advocates that have expressed concern about replacing employees? paper disclosure rights under ERISA with internet access. Labor has not added an e-disclosure project to its regulatory agenda but is still focusing its regulatory resources on other higher priority projects. GAO continues to believe that this is an important pursuit. In FY 17, Labor stated that they do not have any specific timeline for actions on e-disclosures.
    Director: Jones, Yvonne D
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To help ensure that Congress is fully apprised of efforts to resolve a case, Congress may wish to consider amending USERRA to require DOJ and OSC to report on additional time taken to resolve a matter after they decline representation.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 28, 2017, this matter has not yet been considered by Congress.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that that servicemembers who file complaints are adequately being informed of their USERRA complaint process rights in accordance with VBIA 2008, Congress may wish to consider amending USERRA to require DOL to report on the extent to which it is notifying complainants of their USERRA complaint process rights within 5 days of filing a complaint.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 28, 2017, this matter has not yet been considered by Congress.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that DOJ handles state cases as expediently as private employer cases, Congress may wish to consider amending USERRA to specifically require DOJ to adhere to the same 60-day deadline for state employer matters that they must adhere to for matters against private employers.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 28, 2017, this matter has not yet been considered by Congress.
    Recommendation: To help ensure that servicemembers in state employer cases are kept apprised of the status of DOJ's decision making without potentially compromising DOJ's ability to successfully bring suit against state employers, Congress may wish to consider amending USERRA to require DOJ to notify these servicemembers of the status of DOJ's efforts.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of February 28, 2017, this matter has not yet been considered by Congress.
    Director: Farrell, Brenda S
    Phone: (202)512-3604

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To better determine the effects of nonresponse bias on the Status of Forces survey results, the Secretary of Defense should direct Director of DMDC to develop and implement guidance both for conducting nonresponse analysis and for using the results of nonresponse analysis to inform DMDC's statistical weighting techniques, as part of the collection and analysis of the Status of Forces survey results.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of November 2012, DMDC indicated that, although it continues to agree with the recommendation that DOD develop and implement guidance both for conducting nonresponse analysis and for using the results of nonresponse analysis to inform DMDC's statistical weighting techniques, funding is not currently available to carry out the full intent of the recommendation. Therefore, DMDC stated that it can only comply with the spirit of the recommendation at this time. Further, DMDC is looking for further direction from GAO with regard to this recommendation.
    Director: Khan, Asif A
    Phone: (202)512-3000

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), in coordination with the military service secretaries (as appropriate), to revise the Army procedures to include specific steps required to retain documentation of the activities performed and related results.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on the draft report, DOD concurred with the recommendation and cited actions in process to revise its Financial Management Regulation (FMR). In 2016, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) (OUSD(C)) stated that the Components provided comments and edits to the draft Chapter 23. The comments were more detailed than projected and require extensive research to verify. However, it is not clear whether this action will provide sufficient Army-specific procedural requirements. As of August 2017, we have not been able to obtain supporting documentation to assess whether the recommendation was implemented.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), in coordination with the military service secretaries (as appropriate), to revise the Marine Corps and Air Force procedures to include specific steps required to validate data in the OCO report including reconciliations and retain documentation of the activities performed and related results.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on the draft report, DOD concurred with the recommendation and cited actions in process to revise its Financial Management Regulation (FMR). In 2016, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) (OUSD(C)) stated that the Components provided comments and edits to the draft Chapter 23. The comments were more detailed than projected and require extensive research to verify. However, it is not clear whether this action will provide sufficient Marine Corps and Air Force-specific procedural requirements. As of August 2017, we have not been able to obtain supporting documentation to assess whether the recommendation was implemented.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), in coordination with the military service secretaries (as appropriate), to establish Navy procedures to include specific steps required to validate data in the OCO report including variance analysis and reconciliations, and retain documentation of the activities performed and related results.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on the draft report, DOD concurred with the recommendation and cited actions in process to revise its Financial Management Regulation (FMR). In 2016, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) (OUSD(C)) stated that the Components provided comments and edits to the draft Chapter 23. The comments were more detailed than projected and require extensive research to verify. However, it is not clear whether this action will provide sufficient Navy-specific procedural requirements. As of August 2017, we have not been able to obtain supporting documentation to assess whether the recommendation was implemented.
    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), in coordination with the military service secretaries (as appropriate), to revise DOD requirements in FMR 7000.14-R, Volume 12, Chapter 23, Contingency Operations, to provide clear, detailed guidance on (1) conducting reconciliations and other validations and (2) documenting military service-level reviews and DOD Comptroller-level reviews.

    Agency: Department of Defense
    Status: Open

    Comments: In commenting on the draft report, DOD concurred with the recommendation and cited actions in process to revise its Financial Management Regulation (FMR). In 2016, the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) (OUSD(C)) stated that the Components provided comments and edits to the draft Chapter 23. The comments were more detailed than projected and require extensive research to verify. As of August 2017, we have not been able to obtain supporting documentation to assess whether the recommendation was implemented.
    Director: Dicken, John E
    Phone: (202)512-7043

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To address state agency practices and external pressure that may compromise survey accuracy, the Administrator of CMS should reestablish expectations through guidance to state survey agencies that noncitation practices--official or unofficial--are inappropriate, and systematically monitor trends in states' citations.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: September 2017: HHS reported CMS is working to address this recommendation. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive further information. September 2016: CMS has not yet provided additional information. GAO will update the recommendation, as appropriate, when information is received. July 2015: CMS indicated it will provide GAO with updated actions in early 2016. May 2014: Though the best method to address external pressures on State Agencies was not identified, CMS is continuing to address the consistency, effectiveness, and integrity of the survey process through the following activities: reviewing citation patterns for the nursing home surveys; systematically identifying and testing opportunities to make the survey process more efficient and effective; and holding monthly CO and RO calls to address consistencies in the survey and enforcement process. CMS Regional Offices also routinely hold conference calls (e.g., monthly) with the State Survey Agencies in their region to address survey, enforcement and certification issues and conduct the federal validation survey of the state's findings. CMS is looking to review specific regulatory deficiencies for trends and areas where additional guidance is needed. Anticipated completion date of October 31, 2014. June 2013: Though the best method to address external pressures on State Agencies was not identified. CMS is continuing to address the consistency, effectiveness, and integrity of the survey process through the following activities: reviewing citation patterns for the nursing home surveys; systematically identifying and testing opportunities to make the survey process more efficient and effective; and holding monthly CO and RO calls to address consistencies in the survey and enforcement process. CMS Regional Offices also routinely hold conference calls (e.g., monthly) with the State Survey Agencies in their region to address survey, enforcement and certification issues and conduct the federal validation survey of the state's findings. September 2010: CMS held a State/Federal meeting in April 2010. The discussion with the State/Federal meeting did not shed light on best method to address possible external pressures on State Agencies. Some expressed that poor documentation/inadequate investigation may cause deficiencies to be dropped and not necessarily external pressure. They will continue to work on developing next steps.
    Recommendation: To address state agency practices and external pressure that may compromise survey accuracy, the Administrator of CMS should establish expectations through guidance to state survey agencies to communicate and collaborate with their CMS regional offices when they experience significant pressure from legislators or the nursing home industry that may affect the survey process or surveyors' perceptions.

    Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Status: Open

    Comments: September 2017: HHS reported CMS is working to address this recommendation. We will update the status of this recommendation when we receive further information. September 2016: CMS has not yet provided additional information. GAO will update the recommendation, as appropriate, when information is received. July 2015: CMS indicated it will provide GAO with updated actions in early 2016. May 2014: CMS has undertaken a broader review of both the QIS and traditional survey processes, and the extent to which the methodology and guidance result in an effective and efficient survey process. In August 2012, CMS convened a broad group of surveyors to address these issues and make recommendations which have resulted in continuing work to develop and test alternative guidance and processes. CMS is looking to review specific regulatory deficiencies for trends and areas where additional guidance is needed. Anticipated Completion date of December 31, 2014. June 2013: Though the best method to address external pressures on State Agencies was not identified. CMS is continuing to address the consistency, effectiveness, and integrity of the survey process through the following activities: reviewing citation patterns for the nursing home surveys; systematically identifying and testing opportunities to make the survey process more efficient and effective; and holding monthly CO and RO calls to address consistencies in the survey and enforcement process. CMS Regional Offices also routinely hold conference calls (e.g., monthly) with the State Survey Agencies in their region to address survey, enforcement and certification issues and conduct the federal validation survey of the state's findings. September 2010: CMS held a State/Federal meeting in April 2010. The discussion with the State/Federal meeting did not shed light on best method to address possible external pressures on State Agencies. CMS will continue to work on developing next steps.
    Director: Engel, Gary T
    Phone: (202)512-8815

    1 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Treasury should direct the Fiscal Assistant Secretary, in coordination with the Controller of OMB's Office of Federal Financial Management, to develop and implement effective processes for monitoring and assessing the effectiveness of internal control over the processes used to prepare the CFS.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of the completion of our fiscal year 2016 consolidated financial statements (CFS) audit, Treasury and OMB agreed that this recommendation remained open. Treasury designed and implemented an OMB Circular No. A-123 internal control review for the CFS compilation processes. In fiscal year 2017, Treasury plans to use the internal control review to support its assessment on the effectiveness of internal controls over the processes used to prepare the CFS. We will follow-up on progress made by Treasury and OMB as part of our fiscal year 2017 CFS audit, which is ongoing as of March 2017.