Tom Carper, U.S. Senator for Delaware

Dec 13 2012

Bill to Reduce Unnecessary and Outdated GAO Reviews to Become Law

Legislation Would Help GAO Focus Limited Resources o n Critical Oversight

WASHINGTON –Today, the House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation that would help the work of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of Congress.  The GAO Mandates Revision Act (S. 3315), approved by the Senate in September, would modify or eliminate a specific set of unnecessary and outdated congressionally-mandated GAO audits and reviews. The bill, which was introduced in June by Federal Financial Management Subcommittee Chairman Tom Carper (D-Del.), is cosponsored by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill now goes to the President's desk for his signature. 

"The Government Accountability Office (GAO) delivers Members of Congress, our staffs and the public invaluable information and research on bills, programs, and management challenges throughout the federal government," said Sen. Carper. "GAO reports help those of us in government – Republicans and Democrats alike – do our jobs better and help us make our government more efficient, effective, and productive. That's why it is so important that we avoid weighing down this research powerhouse with unnecessary and outdated work that can take months – even years – to complete. This measure will streamline the requirements that Congress places on the Government Accountability Office, allowing this critical agency to focus its limited resources on its most important work and help Americans get a bigger bang for their buck."

"The GAO is a unique resource that delivers deeply-researched reports to Members of Congress on a variety of public policy issues," said Sen. Lieberman. "These reports inform the work that we do – from drafting legislation to holding hearings to strengthening debate – because they provide a roadmap toward a more effective and efficient government. Since GAO's resources are limited, we do not want them wasting their time on useless or out-dated reporting and auditing requirements. This legislation will strip away many requirements imposed upon GAO in another era in order to bring greater efficiency and effectiveness to the work the agency does best."

"GAO shouldn't have to produce reports that have long outlived their relevance or use," said Sen. Collins. "This bill also updates the requirements for other reports where the federal program has changed with the times and the mandate for the report has not. GAO is one of Congress' most important partners and has faced difficult budget tightening in recent years.    The agency is at its lowest staffing level since 1935.  It's only fair that, as we ask the analysts to take on critical work to support our efforts in the legislative branch, we remove any requirements that no longer make sense."

Congress often requests that the GAO perform an examination of a program, agency or other federal activity, but sometimes these GAO exams and audits are established in statute as an annual review with no end date.  However, in several cases, the program examined by GAO could end or the importance of the review could wane, yet the GAO is still required to continue its review until Congress changes its original statute. This problem leads to duplicative or unnecessary work for GAO, which often results in long delays for Congress to receive new GAO work. The GAO Mandates Revision Act lists eight outdated projects proposed by GAO to cancel or modify.  

For example, the GAO examines annually an export-import allowance program for Haiti, even though the program is virtually inactive. In another example, the GAO is charged with conducting a financial audit of the American Battle Monuments Commission, even though the Commission will soon conduct its own financial audit, forcing the GAO to expend precious resources on duplicative work.
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