Performance Measure: GAO Had a Reasonable Basis for Reporting Its Largest Financial Benefits for Fiscal Year 2009

OIG-10-4: May 21, 2010

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This publication presents the Inspector General's audit of GAO's fiscal year 2009 financial benefits of $1 billion or more. GAO annually assesses its performance using a combination of performance measures to help determine how well it is meeting the needs of the Congress and maximizing its value to the public. One of these measures--financial benefits--is an estimate of the federal monetary effect of agency or congressional actions or changes in agency practices that are directly related to GAO's work. Based on our audit of 10 GAO accomplishment reports that claim financial benefits valued at $1 billion or more, we determined that GAO had a reasonable basis to claim financial benefits of $24.95 billion cited in the reports. These large dollar value accomplishment reports accounted for 58 percent of GAO's $43 billion in total financial benefits claimed for fiscal year 2009. As a result of our work, GAO took additional steps to better document these benefits and made adjustments in amounts claimed before reporting the final benefit total in its fiscal year 2009 Performance and Accountability Report. In addition, our audit identified an opportunity to strengthen GAO's process for reporting financial benefits by incorporating more technical expertise in calculating benefit amounts. In January 2010, GAO announced new procedures for expanding the role of GAO's Center for Economics to assist the mission teams in calculating financial benefits for accomplishment reports if they are reported to be $500 million or more.

Financial benefits are one of the key measures of GAO's performance. We determined that GAO had a reasonable basis to claim financial benefits of $24.95 billion for its large dollar value accomplishment reports for fiscal year 2009. We also identified opportunities for GAO to strengthen its accomplishment report process, for example, by establishing a greater role for GAO's Center for Economics in reviewing estimates of financial benefits. To its credit, GAO has already taken action to create a review process that includes GAO's Center for Economics. Moreover, we believe GAO may be able to develop a more effective and efficient system of internal controls over large dollar value accomplishment reports by focusing more attention on the mission teams in their development of large dollar value accomplishment reports. Such assistance would increase management's confidence in the reliability of the agency's financial benefit claims.

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