October 19, 2021

News

News Network

COVID-19: Reviewing Existing Policies Could Help Selected Agencies Better Prepare for Dedicated User Fee Revenue Fluctuations

20 min read
<div>What GAO Found Executive branch agencies' revenues from dedicated user fees were lower in fiscal year 2020 and in the first half of fiscal year 2021 compared to average annual revenues in fiscal years 2017 through 2019, the 3 fiscal years prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the declaration of the pandemic as a national emergency in March 2020, these revenues were about 39 percent lower than the previous 3-year average during the same period. Executive Branch Agencies' Revenue from Dedicated User Fees in Fiscal Year 2020 Was Lower Overall than the Previous 3-year Average Note: For more details, see figure 2 in GAO-21-104325. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Park Service (NPS), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all prioritized spending on essential expenses, sought to increase available funds or operational flexibilities, and relied on carryover balances to cover essential expenses during the pandemic. However, FAA and NPS have not documented plans to review certain management plans and policies. FAA drafted a cash management plan containing measures to help it carry out mission-critical functions in a time of Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) revenue instability. FAA officials told GAO they may revisit the plan to align it with leadership priorities in case of future AATF revenue instability. However, FAA has not documented plans to conduct such a review, which could help FAA better prepare for future periods of revenue instability. NPS parks relied on funds carried over from previous years during the pandemic to various extents, depending on local circumstances. NPS requires many fee-collecting parks to carry over no more than 35 percent of the previous year's revenue from certain fees. The agency has not completed an analysis to determine the efficacy of this policy since its implementation in 2010. Because of this, NPS may not be maintaining its carryover balances in the most effective way. Why GAO Did This Study Each year, federal agencies collect billions of dollars in dedicated user fee revenue from fees charged to users of federal goods and services, which are dedicated by law for a specific purpose or program. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted critical government operations for agencies that rely on these revenues. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to review the effects of the pandemic on public institutions of the U.S. This report examines how dedicated user fee revenues have changed since the onset of the pandemic and how selected agencies managed revenue changes related to the pandemic, among other objectives. To determine revenue changes, GAO compared dedicated user fee revenues in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to amounts from prior years. GAO selected three agencies to review—FAA, NPS, and USCIS—based on whether they relied on dedicated user fee revenue to a high (FAA and USCIS) or low (NPS) extent, among other factors. GAO interviewed officials at the selected agencies and reviewed relevant documents to determine how these agencies managed revenue changes, and compared those actions to internal control standards and leading practices for fee design.</div>

What GAO Found

Executive branch agencies’ revenues from dedicated user fees were lower in fiscal year 2020 and in the first half of fiscal year 2021 compared to average annual revenues in fiscal years 2017 through 2019, the 3 fiscal years prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following the declaration of the pandemic as a national emergency in March 2020, these revenues were about 39 percent lower than the previous 3-year average during the same period.

Executive Branch Agencies’ Revenue from Dedicated User Fees in Fiscal Year 2020 Was Lower Overall than the Previous 3-year Average

Note: For more details, see figure 2 in GAO-21-104325.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), National Park Service (NPS), and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) all prioritized spending on essential expenses, sought to increase available funds or operational flexibilities, and relied on carryover balances to cover essential expenses during the pandemic. However, FAA and NPS have not documented plans to review certain management plans and policies.

  • FAA drafted a cash management plan containing measures to help it carry out mission-critical functions in a time of Airport and Airway Trust Fund (AATF) revenue instability. FAA officials told GAO they may revisit the plan to align it with leadership priorities in case of future AATF revenue instability. However, FAA has not documented plans to conduct such a review, which could help FAA better prepare for future periods of revenue instability.
  • NPS parks relied on funds carried over from previous years during the pandemic to various extents, depending on local circumstances. NPS requires many fee-collecting parks to carry over no more than 35 percent of the previous year’s revenue from certain fees. The agency has not completed an analysis to determine the efficacy of this policy since its implementation in 2010. Because of this, NPS may not be maintaining its carryover balances in the most effective way.

Why GAO Did This Study

Each year, federal agencies collect billions of dollars in dedicated user fee revenue from fees charged to users of federal goods and services, which are dedicated by law for a specific purpose or program. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted critical government operations for agencies that rely on these revenues.

The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to review the effects of the pandemic on public institutions of the U.S. This report examines how dedicated user fee revenues have changed since the onset of the pandemic and how selected agencies managed revenue changes related to the pandemic, among other objectives.

To determine revenue changes, GAO compared dedicated user fee revenues in fiscal years 2020 and 2021 to amounts from prior years. GAO selected three agencies to review—FAA, NPS, and USCIS—based on whether they relied on dedicated user fee revenue to a high (FAA and USCIS) or low (NPS) extent, among other factors. GAO interviewed officials at the selected agencies and reviewed relevant documents to determine how these agencies managed revenue changes, and compared those actions to internal control standards and leading practices for fee design.

More from:

News Network

  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks at Announcement of Pattern or Practice Investigation into the Louisville Police Department
    In Crime News
    Remarks as delivered.
    [Read More…]
  • Florida Man Charged with COVID Relief Fraud, Health Care Fraud and Money Laundering
    In Crime News
    A Florida man has been charged regarding allegations that he fraudulently obtained a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), and that he orchestrated a conspiracy to submit false and fraudulent claims for reimbursement to Medicare and CareCredit, and to defraud his own patients by charging them thousands of dollars for chiropractic services under false pretenses.
    [Read More…]
  • Telecommunications: FCC Should Enhance Performance Goals and Measures for Its Program to Support Broadband Service in High-Cost Areas
    In U.S GAO News
    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a program, known as the high-cost program, to promote broadband deployment in unserved areas. Although the performance goals for the high-cost program reflect principles in the Telecommunications Act of 1996, not all of the goals are expressed in a measurable or quantifiable manner and therefore do not align with leading practices. Furthermore, FCC's measures for its performance goals do not always align with leading practices, which call for measures to have linkage with the goal they measure and clarity, objectivity, and measurable targets, among other key attributes. For example, as shown below for two of FCC's five goals, GAO found that FCC's measures met most, but not all, of the key attributes. By establishing goals and measures that align with leading practices, FCC can improve the performance information it uses in its decision-making processes about how to allocate the program's finite resources. Leading practices also suggest that agencies publicly report on progress made toward performance goals. FCC does so, however, only in a limited fashion which may lead to stakeholder uncertainty about the program's effectiveness. Examples of FCC’s Performance Measures Compared with a Selection of Key Attributes of Successful Performance Measures According to stakeholders GAO interviewed, FCC faces three key challenges to accomplish its high-cost program performance goals: (1) accuracy of FCC's broadband deployment data, (2) broadband availability on tribal lands, and (3) maintaining existing fixed-voice infrastructure and attaining universal mobile service. For example, although FCC adopted a more precise method of collecting and verifying broadband availability data, stakeholders expressed concern the revised data would remain inaccurate if carriers continue to overstate broadband coverage for marketing and competitive reasons. Overstating coverage impairs FCC's efforts to promote universal voice and broadband since an area can become ineligible for high-cost support if a carrier reports that service already exists in that area. FCC has also taken actions to address the lack of broadband availability on tribal lands, such as making some spectrum available to tribes for wireless broadband in rural areas. However, tribal stakeholders told GAO that some tribes are unable to secure funding to deploy the infrastructure necessary to make use of spectrum for wireless broadband purposes. Millions of Americans do not have access to broadband. Within the Universal Service Fund, FCC's high-cost program provided about $5 billion in 2019 to telecommunications carriers to support broadband deployment in unserved areas where the cost to provide broadband service is high. In 2011, FCC established five performance goals and related measures for the high-cost program. GAO was asked to review the high-cost program's performance goals and measures. This report examines: (1) the extent to which the program's performance goals and measures align with leading practices to enable the effective use of performance information and (2) the key challenges selected stakeholders believe FCC faces in meeting the program's goals. GAO reviewed FCC's program goals and measures and assessed them against applicable criteria, including GAO's leading practices for successful performance measures. GAO interviewed FCC officials and representatives from industry, tribal carriers, consumer advocates, and other stakeholders, to obtain a variety of non-generalizable viewpoints. GAO is making four recommendations, including that FCC should ensure its high-cost program's performance goals and measures align with leading practices and publicly report on progress measured toward the goals. FCC concurred with all four recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Federal Court Permanently Shuts Down Chicago Tax Preparer
    In Crime News
    A federal court in the Northern District of Illinois has permanently enjoined a Chicago, Illinois, tax return preparer from preparing returns for others and from owning or operating any tax return preparation business in the future.
    [Read More…]
  • NASA’s Perseverance Rover Will Carry First Spacesuit Materials to Mars
    In Space
    In a Q&A, spacesuit [Read More…]
  • Man Sentenced for Role in Investment-Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Virginia man was sentenced today to over eight years in prison for his role in an investment-fraud scheme in which he and his co-conspirators stole at least $5.7 million from victim investors.
    [Read More…]
  • Electronic Health Records: DOD Has Made Progress in Implementing a New System, but Challenges Persist
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) made progress toward implementing its new electronic health record system, MHS GENESIS. DOD deployed the new system to sites in six of 24 planned deployment phases (i.e., waves), which included about 41,600 users (see figure). DOD also improved system performance and addressed issues experienced at the initial sites. Even with this progress, incidents identified during testing—such as system defects—remain unresolved. DOD has not developed plans to conduct additional testing at future sites to ensure the remaining incidents are fully resolved. As a result, unaddressed incidents could lead to challenges at future sites. Actual and Planned MHS GENESIS Deployments, 2017-2023, as of June 2021 Additionally, implementation of MHS GENESIS faced training and communication challenges. Test results and selected system users indicated that training for MHS GENESIS and the dissemination of system change information were ineffective. For example, the users stated that training was not consistent with the “live” system. Further, users reported that there were too many system changes to keep up with and that they were not adequately informed as changes were implemented. As a result, users were unaware of important changes to their roles or business processes, or to system revisions and improvements. These challenges could hinder users' ability to effectively use the system, impede their knowledge of new workflows, and limit the utility of system improvements. Regarding key program risks, DOD identified and was tracking risks and their associated mitigation plans. Why GAO Did This Study DOD relies on multiple legacy electronic health record systems to create, maintain, and manage patient health information. DOD has determined that these systems, implemented over the past 3 decades, require modernization and replacement. The department has sought to replace these legacy systems with a comprehensive, real-time electronic health record. The conference report accompanying the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2019 and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019 included a provision for GAO to review DOD's electronic health record deployment. GAO's objectives were to (1) determine what progress DOD has made toward implementing a new electronic health record system, and (2) identify the challenges and key risks to MHS GENESIS implementation and what steps DOD is taking to address them. To do so, GAO analyzed test reports, briefing materials, and incident report tracking documents. GAO also held discussion groups with 356 users at selected sites and interviewed relevant officials.
    [Read More…]
  • Electricity Grid Resilience: Climate Change Is Expected to Have Far-reaching Effects and DOE and FERC Should Take Actions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Climate change is expected to have far-reaching effects on the electricity grid that could cost billions and could affect every aspect of the grid from generation, transmission, and distribution to demand for electricity, according to several reports GAO reviewed. The type and extent of these effects on the grid will vary by geographic location and other factors. For example, reports GAO reviewed stated that more frequent droughts and changing rainfall patterns may adversely affect hydroelectricity generation in Alaska and the Northwest and Southwest regions of the United States. Further, transmission capacity may be reduced or distribution lines damaged during increasing wildfire activity in some regions due to warmer temperatures and drier conditions. Moreover, climate change effects on the grid could cost utilities and customers billions, including the costs of power outages and infrastructure damage. Examples of Climate Change Effects on the Electricity Grid Since 2014, the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) have taken actions to enhance the resilience of the grid. For example, in 2015, DOE established a partnership with 18 utilities to plan for climate change. In 2018, FERC collected information from grid operators on grid resilience and their risks to hazards such as extreme weather. Nevertheless, opportunities exist for DOE and FERC to take additional actions to enhance grid resilience to climate change. For example, DOE identified climate change as a risk to energy infrastructure, including the grid, but it does not have an overall strategy to guide its efforts. GAO's Disaster Resilience Framework states that federal efforts can focus on risk reduction by creating resilience goals and linking those goals to an overarching strategy. Developing and implementing a department-wide strategy that defines goals and measures progress could help prioritize DOE's climate resilience efforts to ensure that resources are targeted effectively. Regarding FERC, it has not taken steps to identify or assess climate change risks to the grid and, therefore, is not well positioned to determine the actions needed to enhance resilience. Risk management involves identifying and assessing risks to understand the likelihood of impacts and their associated consequences. By doing so, FERC could then plan and implement appropriate actions to respond to the risks and achieve its objective of promoting resilience. Why GAO Did This Study According to the U.S. Global Change Research Program, changes in the earth's climate are under way and expected to increase, posing risks to the electricity grid that may affect the nation's economic and national security. Annual costs of weather-related power outages total billions of dollars and may increase with climate change, although resilience investments could help address potential effects, according to the research program. Private companies own most of the electricity grid, but the federal government plays a significant role in promoting grid resilience—the ability to adapt to changing conditions; withstand potentially disruptive events; and, if disrupted, to rapidly recover. DOE, the lead agency for grid resilience efforts, conducts research and provides information and technical assistance to industry. FERC reviews mandatory grid reliability standards. This testimony summarizes GAO's report on grid resilience to climate change. Specifically, the testimony discusses (1) potential climate change effects on the electricity grid; and (2) actions DOE and FERC have taken since 2014 to enhance electricity grid resilience to climate change effects, and additional actions these agencies could take. GAO reviewed reports and interviewed agency officials and 55 relevant stakeholders.
    [Read More…]
  • Southwest Border Security: Actions Are Needed to Address the Cost and Readiness Implications of Continued DOD Support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection
    In U.S GAO News
    Since April 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has submitted 33 requests for assistance (RFA) to the Department of Defense (DOD) for support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) mission at the southwest border. DOD established six criteria for evaluating RFAs, which it documents in decision packages. When reviewing four selected decision packages, GAO found that DOD fully evaluated four of these six criteria. GAO found that DOD developed rough cost estimates that were not reliable. In addition, DOD did not fully evaluate the effect on military readiness of providing support at the time the Secretary of Defense considered DHS's requests. Without reliable cost estimates and a timely readiness analysis, DOD is limited in its ability to evaluate the effect of supporting DHS on its budget and readiness rebuilding efforts. DOD's Detection and Monitoring Support Mission DOD has not provided Congress with timely information on the full costs it has incurred since 2018 in supporting DHS. Specifically, during this review, DOD did not submit its statutory report to Congress for fiscal year 2019, which was due March 31, 2020. Additionally, GAO found that DOD's internal tracking of obligations excludes potentially significant costs of border support activities, such as installation support costs and the cost of benefits retroactively provided to members of the National Guard. By providing more timely and complete information to Congress, DOD would enhance Congress's ability to conduct oversight and make funding decisions for DOD and DHS. DOD and DHS employed several key interagency collaboration practices for DOD's support on the southwest border, but they have not agreed on a common outcome for DOD's support in fiscal year 2021 and beyond. DHS anticipates needing at least the current amount of DOD support for the next 3 to 5 years, possibly more, and officials stated that the desired outcome is for DOD to provide the capabilities requested in the RFAs. This differs from DOD's desired outcome, which is to provide temporary assistance until DHS can independently execute its border security mission. Defining and articulating a common outcome for DOD's support could enable DOD to more effectively plan for the resources it will need to support DHS and enable DHS to plan to manage its border security mission more effectively with its own assets. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in February 2021. Information on force protection that DOD deemed sensitive has been omitted. For decades, the U.S. southwest border has been vulnerable to cross-border illegal activity such as illegal entries, smuggling of drugs and contraband, and terrorist activities. Since 2002, DOD has supported DHS's mission to secure the nation's borders and episodically supported its efforts to manage surges in foreign nationals without valid travel documents who are seeking entry—most recently since April 2018, when the President directed the Secretary of Defense to support DHS in securing the southwest border. GAO was asked to examine this support. This report assesses the extent to which (1) DOD has evaluated DHS's RFAs, (2) DOD has reported to Congress the full costs of its support, and (3) DOD and DHS have collaborated on border security operations. GAO reviewed RFAs that DHS submitted to DOD between April 2018 and March 2020 and a non-generalizable sample of decision packages that DOD prepared in response, and conducted four site visits to border locations where military personnel were stationed. GAO makes seven recommendations, five to DOD to improve its analysis and reporting of cost and unit-level readiness impacts of supporting southwest border operations and one each to DOD and DHS to define a common outcome for DOD's future support. DOD agreed with one recommendation and disagreed with five. GAO continues to believe the recommendations are warranted as discussed in the report. DHS agreed with the recommendation to it. For more information, contact Elizabeth A. Field at (202) 512-2775 or fielde1@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Removal Order Upheld Against Tennessee Man Who Served as Nazi Concentration Camp Guard During WWII
    In Crime News
    The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has dismissed the appeal of Tennessee resident Friedrich Karl Berger, a German citizen who was ordered removed from the United States earlier this year on the basis of his service in Nazi Germany in 1945 as an armed guard of concentration camp prisoners in the Neuengamme Concentration Camp system (Neuengamme).
    [Read More…]
  • Stabilization and Reconstruction: Actions Are Needed to Develop a Planning and Coordination Framework and Establish the Civilian Reserve Corps
    In U.S GAO News
    In 2004, the Department of State created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization to coordinate U.S. planning and implementation of stabilization and reconstruction operations. In December 2005, President Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 44 (NSPD-44), charging State with improving coordination, planning, and implementation of such operations and ensuring that the United States can respond quickly and effectively to overseas crises. GAO was asked to report on State's efforts to improve (1) interagency planning and coordination for stabilization and reconstruction operations, and (2) deployment of civilians to these operations. To address these objectives, we conducted interviews with officials and reviewed documents from U.S. agencies and government and private research centers.The office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) is developing a framework for planning and coordinating U.S. reconstruction and stabilization operations. The National Security Council (NSC) has adopted two of three primary elements of the framework--the Interagency Management System and procedures for initiating the framework's use. However, the third element--a guide for planning stabilization and reconstruction operations--is still in progress. We cannot determine how effective the framework will be because it has not been fully applied to any stabilization and reconstruction operation. In addition, guidance on agencies' roles and responsibilities is unclear and inconsistent, and the lack of an agreed-upon definition for stabilization and reconstruction operations poses an obstacle to interagency collaboration. Moreover, some interagency partners stated that senior officials have shown limited support for the framework and S/CRS. Some partners described the new planning process, as presented in early versions of the planning guide, as cumbersome and too time consuming for the results it has produced. S/CRS has taken steps to strengthen the framework by addressing some interagency concerns and providing training to interagency partners. However, differences in the planning capacities and procedures of civilian agencies and the military pose obstacles to effective coordination. State has begun developing three civilian corps that can deploy rapidly to international crises, but key details for establishing and maintaining these units remain unresolved. First, State created the Active Response Corps (ARC) and the Standby Response Corps (SRC) comprised of U.S. government employees to act as first responders to international crises and has worked with several agencies to create similar units. However, these efforts are limited due to State's difficulty in achieving planned staffing levels for ARC, a lack of training available to SRC volunteers, other agencies' inability to secure resources for operations unrelated to their core domestic missions, and the possibility that deploying employees to such operations can leave units without sufficient staff. Second, in 2004, State began developing the Civilian Reserve Corps (CRC). CRC would be comprised of U.S. civilians who have skills and experiences useful for stabilization and reconstruction operations, such as police officers, civil engineers, public administrators, and judges that are not readily available within the U.S. government. If deployed, volunteers would become federal workers. S/CRS developed a plan to recruit the first 500 volunteers, and NSC has approved a plan to increase the roster to 2,000 volunteers in 2009. In May 2007, State received the authority to reallocate up to $50 million to support and maintain CRC, but it does not yet have the authority to obligate these funds. In addition, issues related to volunteers' compensation and benefits that could affect CRC recruitment and management would require congressional action. Furthermore, State has not clearly defined the types of missions for which CRC would be deployed. State has estimated the costs to establish and sustain CRC at home, but these costs do not include costs for deploying and sustaining volunteers overseas.
    [Read More…]
  • DOD Software Acquisition: Status of and Challenges Related to Reform Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) increasingly relies on software to operate its weapon and business information technology (IT) systems. Yet, DOD has long faced challenges with software development. Over the past several years, DOD made efforts to modernize its software development approaches. For example: New software acquisition pathway. As GAO reported in June 2021, DOD created a new acquisition framework in January 2020 with six acquisition pathways, including one for software. The pathway emphasized modern software development practices, such as encouraging more frequent user feedback, as GAO recommended in March 2019. In June 2021, GAO reported that, while DOD had recently started implementing this pathway, the department did not have a data collection strategy for it. As a result, we recommended that DOD automate data collection efforts for the pathway. DOD concurred with the recommendation. Agile development. In February 2020, DOD issued an Agile Software Acquisition Guidebook that incorporates lessons learned from two pilot programs and emphasizes an iterative software development process. This process provides for rapid, frequent delivery of production-quality software. See figure. The Department of Defense's Agile Development Process However, GAO's recent work—including the June 2021 assessments of DOD's weapon and business IT systems—shows that many programs have yet to implement certain recommended practices associated with modern software development approaches. For example, GAO's Agile Assessment Guide emphasizes the early and continuous delivery of working software to users, and industry recommends delivery as frequently as every 2 weeks for Agile programs. Yet, as of June 2021, only six of 36 weapon programs that reported using Agile also reported delivering software to users in less than 3 months. DOD programs also reported a number of other challenges that could affect their ability to implement reforms. For example, over half of the weapon systems and nearly all major business IT programs GAO reviewed reported staffing challenges related to software development, such as difficulty hiring government and contractor staff. Why GAO Did This Study GAO reported in June 2021 that DOD planned to invest over $1.8 trillion to acquire its costliest new weapon systems. DOD is also investing billions more in IT systems and capabilities. The William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 included a provision for GAO to brief congressional defense committees on DOD's implementation of software acquisition reforms for certain systems and activities. This report summarizes past GAO findings about the extent to which DOD implemented required or recommended software acquisition reforms for weapon and business systems. Other elements of the provision will be addressed in future work. For this report, GAO reviewed its June 2021 assessments of DOD weapon and major business IT systems, as well as other relevant prior work. GAO also identified software acquisition reforms initiated in response to recent statutory mandates. No new audit work was conducted for this report.
    [Read More…]
  • U.S. Attorney Transition Begins
    In Crime News
    Continuing the practice of new administrations, President Biden and the Department of Justice have begun the transition process for the U.S. Attorneys.
    [Read More…]
  • Whistleblower Protection: Actions Needed to Strengthen Selected Intelligence Community Offices of Inspector General Programs
    In U.S GAO News
    The six Intelligence Community (IC)-element Offices of Inspectors General (OIG) that GAO reviewed collectively received 5,794 complaints from October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2018, and opened 960 investigations based on those complaints. Of the 960 investigations, IC-element OIGs had closed 873 (about 91 percent) as of August 2019, with an average case time ranging from 113 to 410 days to complete. Eighty-seven cases remained open as of August 2019, with the average open case time being 589 days. The number of investigations at each IC-element OIG varied widely based on factors such as the number of complaints received and each OIG's determination on when to convert a complaint into an investigation. An OIG may decide not to convert a complaint into an investigation if the complaint lacks credibility or sufficient detail, or may refer the complainant to IC-element management or to another OIG if the complaint involves matters that are outside the OIG's authority to investigate. Four of the IC-element OIGs—the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) OIG, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) OIG, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) OIG, and the National Security Agency (NSA) OIG—have a 180-days or fewer timeliness objective for their investigations. The procedures for the remaining two OIGs—the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) OIG—state that investigations should be conducted and reported in a timely manner. Other than those prescribed by statute, the ICIG and NGA OIG have not established timeliness objectives for their investigations. Establishing timeliness objectives could improve the OIGs' ability to efficiently manage investigation time frames and to inform potential whistleblowers of these time frames. All of the selected IC-element OIG investigations units have implemented some quality assurance standards and processes, such as including codes of conduct and ethical and professional standards in their guidance. However, the extent to which they have implemented processes to maintain guidance, conduct routine quality assurance reviews, and plan investigations varies (see table). Implementation of Quality Assurance Standards and Practices by Selected IC-element OIG Investigations Units   ICIG CIA OIG DIA OIG NGA OIG NRO OIG NSA OIG Regular updates of investigation guidance or procedures — — — ✓ — ✓ Internal quality assurance review routinely conducted — — ✓ — — — External quality assurance review routinely conducted — ✓ — — — — Required use of documented investigative plans ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ — ✓ Legend: ✓ = standard or practice implemented; — = standard or practice not implemented. Source: GAO analysis of IC-element OIG investigative policies and procedures. | GAO-20-699 The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency's (CIGIE) Quality Standards for Investigations states that organizations should facilitate due professional care by establishing written investigative policies and procedures via handbooks, manuals, or similar mechanisms that are revised regularly according to evolving laws, regulations, and executive orders. By establishing processes to regularly update their procedures, the ICIG, CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NRO OIG could better ensure that their policies and procedures will remain consistent with evolving laws, regulations, Executive Orders, and CIGIE standards. Additionally, CIGIE's Quality Standards for Federal Offices of Inspector General requires OIGs to establish and maintain a quality assurance program. The standards further state that internal and external quality assurance reviews are the two components of an OIG's quality assurance program, which is an evaluative effort conducted by reviewers independent of the unit being reviewed to ensure that the overall work of the OIG meets appropriate standards. Developing quality assurance programs that incorporate both types of reviews, as appropriate, could help ensure that the IC-element OIGs adhere to OIG procedures and prescribed standards, regulations, and legislation, as well as identify any areas in need of improvement. Further, CIGIE Quality Standards for Investigations states that case-specific priorities must be established and objectives developed to ensure that tasks are performed efficiently and effectively. CIGIE's standards state that this may best be achieved, in part, by preparing case-specific plans and strategies. Establishing a requirement that investigators use documented investigative plans for all investigations could facilitate NRO OIG management's oversight of investigations and help ensure that investigative steps are prioritized and performed efficiently and effectively. CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NGA OIG have training plans or approaches that are consistent with CIGIE's quality standards for investigator training. However, while ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG have basic training requirements and tools to manage training, those OIGs have not established training requirements for their investigators that are linked to the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities, appropriate to their career progression, and part of a documented training plan. Doing so would help the ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG ensure that their investigators collectively possess a consistent set of professional proficiencies aligned with CIGIE's quality standards throughout their entire career progression. Most of the IC-element OIGs GAO reviewed consistently met congressional reporting requirements for the investigations and semiannual reports GAO reviewed. The ICIG did not fully meet one reporting requirement in seven of the eight semiannual reports that GAO reviewed. However, its most recent report, which covers April through September 2019, met this reporting requirement by including statistics on the total number and type of investigations it conducted. Further, three of the six selected IC-element OIGs—the DIA, NGA, and NRO OIGs—did not consistently document notifications to complainants in the reprisal investigation case files GAO reviewed. Taking steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in such cases occur and are documented in the case files would provide these OIGs with greater assurance that they consistently inform complainants of the status of their investigations and their rights as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers play an important role in safeguarding the federal government against waste, fraud, and abuse. The OIGs across the government oversee investigations of whistleblower complaints, which can include protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Whistleblowers in the IC face unique challenges due to the sensitive and classified nature of their work. GAO was asked to review whistleblower protection programs managed by selected IC-element OIGs. This report examines (1) the number and time frames of investigations into complaints that selected IC-element OIGs received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established timeliness objectives for these investigations; (2) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have implemented quality standards and processes for their investigation programs; (3) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established training requirements for investigators; and (4) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have met notification and reporting requirements for investigative activities. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in June 2020. Information that the IC elements deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO selected the ICIG and the OIGs of five of the largest IC elements for review. GAO analyzed time frames for all closed investigations of complaints received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018; reviewed OIG policies, procedures, training requirements, and semiannual reports to Congress; conducted interviews with 39 OIG investigators; and reviewed a selection of case files for senior leaders and reprisal cases from October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2018. GAO is making 23 recommendations, including that selected IC-element OIGs establish timeliness objectives for investigations, implement or enhance quality assurance programs, establish training plans, and take steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in reprisal cases occur. The selected IC-element OIGs concurred with the recommendations and discussed steps they planned to take to implement them. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604, farrellb@gao.gov or Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130, mazanecb@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Justice Department Settles Claim Against Akal Security To Enforce Servicemember’s USERRA Rights
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that it finalized the settlement of a claim against Akal Security to protect rights guaranteed to a military reservist, Chief Petty Officer Robert M. Diaz (Ret.), by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA).
    [Read More…]
  • Kenya Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Reconsider travel [Read More…]
  • Sargeant Marine Inc. Pleads Guilty and Agrees to Pay $16.6 Million to Resolve Charges Related to Foreign Bribery Schemes in Brazil, Venezuela, and Ecuador
    In Crime News
    Sargeant Marine Inc., an asphalt company formerly based in Boca Raton, Florida, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and agreed to pay a criminal fine of $16.6 million to resolve charges stemming from a scheme to pay bribes to foreign officials in three South American countries.
    [Read More…]
  • Executions Scheduled for Two Federal Inmates
    In Crime News
    Attorney General William [Read More…]
  • Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice Releases Final Report
    In Crime News
    Today, following months of virtual meetings, testimony and study, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr submitted the final report of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice to the White House.  This report represents the first comprehensive study of law enforcement in more than 55 years.
    [Read More…]
  • Joint Statement on the Signing of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement
    In Crime News
    Office of the [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.