Department of Education:

Status of Efforts to Address Major Management Challenges

GAO-03-531T: Published: Mar 12, 2003. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 2003.

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In its 2003 performance and accountability report on the Department of Education, GAO identified challenges in, among other areas, student financial aid programs and financial management. The information GAO presents in this testimony is intended to assist Congress in assessing Education's progress in addressing and overcoming these challenges.

Education has taken steps to address its continuing challenges of reducing vulnerabilities in its student aid programs and improving its financial management, such as establishing a senior management team to address management problems, including financial management, throughout the agency. And, while Education has made significant progress, weaknesses remain that will require the continued commitment and vigilance of Education's management to resolve. Reduce vulnerability of student aid programs to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement: Education has made considerable changes to address the ongoing challenges in administering its student aid programs. However, Education needs to continue to address systems integration issues, reduce fraud and error in student aid application and disbursement processes, collect on student loan defaults, and improve its human capital management. Improve financial management: Education has implemented many actions to address its financial management weaknesses. Significant progress was made recently when Education received an unqualified--or "clean"--opinion on its financial statements for fiscal year 2002. While this is an important milestone for the department, internal control and systems weaknesses remain that impede Education's ability to produce timely, accurate, and useful financial information for its managers and stakeholders.

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