What ends up happening to at least some of the steady stream of Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommendations for Federal agencies to improve their operations? Sometimes, they remain outstanding for years, and too often, they aren’t explained in adequate detail when agencies assemble their annual budget requests.
That’s the gist of June 5 report from GAO that says about 4,800 of its recommendations government agencies are still waiting to be implemented – with agencies foregoing financial and other improvements that could result if the recommendations were acted upon.
Budgeting rules, GAO said, require that agencies report on unimplemented recommendations as part of their annual budget justifications. GAO found that 16 of the 24 agencies it looked at filed the proper submission process – as part of the Good Accounting Obligation in Government Act (GAO-IG Act) – for their fiscal year 2024 budget justifications, but that the “level of detail in their reporting varied … possibly because they were confused by the reporting requirements.”
“The Office of Management and Budget offers guidance to agencies on how to prepare their budget justifications,” GAO said, adding, “but it doesn’t provide direction on how to report on unimplemented recommendations.”
“Additional clarification and guidance [from OMB] … would better ensure agencies have the information they need to prepare more compliant and useful reports,” GAO said. “In turn, this would improve reporting and better meet the needs of Congress and the public.”
The report also states that Federal agencies could benefit from learning from one another in implementing GAO recommendations, and says that agencies should find ways to coordinate regularly with their inspectors generals, leverage their IT systems, and develop internal guidance and templates to prepare GAO-IG Act reports.
“While some agencies may benefit from adopting notable practices from other agencies, all agencies would benefit from clarification and guidance on the requirements. This would ensure greater consistency in reporting across the government and would improve the reporting for each agency,” GAO said.