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As of June 17, 2020, there are 4969 open recommendations, of which 518 are priority recommendations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented.
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Recommendation: Given DOT's new discretionary grant programs and similar challenges we have found with previous DOT programs, the Secretary of Transportation should issue a directive that governs department-wide and modal administration discretionary grant programs. Such a directive should include requirements to: (1) develop a plan for evaluating project proposals in advance of issuing a notice of funding availability that defines the stages of the process, including how the process will be overseen to ensure a consistent review of applications; (2) document key decisions, including the reason for any rating changes and the officials responsible for those changes, and how high-level concerns raised during the process were addressed; and (3) align stated program purpose and policy priorities with the evaluation and selection process.
Agency: Department of Transportation Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: DOT concurred with this recommendation and, in March 2019, issued a memo directing secretarial offices and operating administrations involved in awarding discretionary grants to implement our recommendations and to include them in their policies and procedures. In June 2019, we reported that, due to a number of issues, it is unclear how this action will address our recommendation. For example, we found that the memo was essentially limited to a repetition of our recommendation and that DOT did not take steps to ensure that the various affected offices consistently interpret and implement the recommendation. DOT officials told us they wanted to provide the affected offices flexibility to implement the recommendation, but that the Department would assess the need for additional guidance based on revisions to its Financial Assistance Guidance Manual. DOT completed these revisions effective January 2020, and all affected offices are expected to complete developing their policies and procedures by May 2020. We will continue to monitor the Department's actions and assess the extent to which they address our recommendation.
Recommendation: To proactively prepare for oversight of future disaster relief funding, the Director of OMB should develop standard guidance for federal agencies to use in designing internal control plans for disaster relief funding. Such guidance could leverage existing internal control review processes and should include, at a minimum, the following elements: (1) robust criteria for identifying and documenting incremental risks and mitigating controls related to the funding and (2) requirements for documenting the linkage between the incremental risks related to disaster funding and efforts to address known internal control risks.
Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: To address the recommendation, OMB should issue guidance on internal control for disaster relief funding, including criteria for identifying additional risks and mitigating controls related to the funding and a requirement to link these incremental risks to ongoing efforts to address known internal control risks. On July 15, 2016, OMB issued the revised Circular No. A-123, Management's Responsibility for Enterprise Risk Management and Internal Control. The Circular requires agencies to implement enterprise risk management, which includes the development of a risk profile that analyzes the risks faced in achieving strategic objectives and identifies options for addressing them. In April 2017, OMB staff stated that they believe that the implementation of enterprise risk management through Circular No. A-123 satisfies the intent our recommendation. Because the responsibility for implementing enterprise risk management lies with agency management, Circular No. A-123 does not include specific guidance for identifying risks related to disaster funding. Further discussion and documentation to support OMB's position that the revised Circular addresses our recommendation will be necessary. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Sec. 21208(c) requires OMB to issue standard guidance for Federal agencies to use in designing internal control plans for disaster relief funding in order to proactively prepare for oversight of future disaster relief funds. The Act states this guidance shall leverage existing internal control review processes and shall include, at a minimum, (1) robust criteria for identifying and documenting incremental risks and mitigating controls related to the funding, and (2) guidance for documenting the linkage between the incremental risks related to disaster funding and efforts to address known internal control risks. GAO reviewed OMB's actions to implement the law. On June 28, 2019, GAO, 2017 Disaster Relief Oversight: Strategy Needed to Ensure Agencies' Internal Control Plans Provide Sufficient Information, GAO-19-479 (Washington, D.C.: Jun 28, 2019) reported the 2013 recommendation remains open and that we plan to continue monitoring OMB's progress in implementing this priority recommendation. Further, the report stated that OMB did not have an effective strategy to ensure that agencies timely submitted internal control plans; and OMB's Memorandum M-18-14, Implementation of Internal Controls and Grant Expenditures for the Disaster-Related Appropriations lacked specific instructions to agencies on what to include in their internal control plans. As such, a new recommendation was warranted. As of February 2020, OMB has not provided any new status updates for this recommendation.
Recommendation: To increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the process for disaster declarations, the FEMA Administrator should develop and implement a methodology that provides a more comprehensive assessment of a jurisdiction's capability to respond to and recover from a disaster without federal assistance. This should include one or more measures of a jurisdiction's fiscal capacity, such as TTR, and consideration of the jurisdiction's response and recovery capabilities. If FEMA continues to use the PA per capita indicator to assist in identifying a jurisdiction's capabilities to respond to and recover from a disaster, it should adjust the indicator to accurately reflect the annual changes in the U.S. economy since 1986, when the current indicator was first adopted for use. In addition, implementing the adjustment by raising the indicator in steps over several years would give jurisdictions more time to plan for and adjust to the change.
Agency: Department of Homeland Security: Directorate of Emergency Preparedness and Response: Federal Emergency Management Agency Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: On January 20, 2016, FEMA published an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to solicit comments on an option FEMA is considering to establish a disaster deductible, which would require a predetermined level of financial or other commitment from a recipient, generally the state or territorial government, before FEMA would provide assistance under the Public Assistance Program. According to FEMA, the agency received 150 responses during the 60-day public comment period, which ended on March 21, 2016, and used this input to develop a plan for further engagement on a more detailed proposal for public comment. The Supplemental Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, published on January 12, 2017, provided another opportunity for stakeholder input prior to any changes to the Public Assistance program. This proposal included an explanation of how deductible amounts might be calculated, identified specific credits that states could apply for, and detailed how the deductible would be applied post-declaration. According to FEMA officials, the comments received, in part, raised concerns about the complexity of the proposed deductible model. FEMA agreed with the concerns raised that the proposal was too complicated, and in August 2018, told us that it is no longer pursuing that option. However, FEMA is considering options that leverage similar approaches but does not have an estimated completion date for implementation. On October 5, 2018, the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 (DRRA), was signed into law. DRRA (section 1239) directs the FEMA Administrator to initiate a rulemaking to update the factors considered when evaluating a request for a Major Disaster Declaration for Public Assistance, specifically the estimated cost of assistance (i.e. the per capita indicator). FEMA is working to implement this provision pursuant to the law, and this effort represents one of the top priorities of the agency; however, the estimated completion date is still "to be determined." Until FEMA implements a new methodology, FEMA will not have an accurate assessment of a jurisdiction's capabilities to respond to and recover from a disaster without federal assistance and runs the risk of recommending that the President award Public Assistance to jurisdictions that have the capability to respond and recover on their own.
Recommendation: The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security should direct FEMA to take steps to ensure that its rate-setting methods and the data it uses to set rates result in full-risk premiums rates that accurately reflect the risk of losses from flooding. These steps should include, for example, verifying the accuracy of flood probabilities, damage estimates, and flood maps; ensuring that the effects of long-term planned and ongoing development, as well as climate change, are reflected in the flood probabilities used; and reevaluating the practice of aggregating risks across zones.
Agency: Department of Homeland Security Status: Open Priority recommendation
Comments: In April 2018, FEMA officials told us they had begun to redesign NFIP's risk rating system to help ensure policy rates better reflect the risk of flooding. The redesign, known as Risk Rating 2.0, includes efforts to use catastrophe models, stochastic approaches, and updated map information to better reflect the variation in flood risk. These reforms are also intended to improve how FEMA's rating process accounts for general and specific factors that affect flood probabilities and damage. While FEMA initially announced that new rates for all single-family homes would go into effect nationwide on October 1, 2020, it announced in November 2019 that it would defer implementation to October 1, 2021. FEMA said this would allow it to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the proposed rating structure so as to protect policyholders and minimize any unintentional negative effects of the transition, and that the new implementation date would cover all NFIP policies.