The Federal Judiciary:

Reviews of Court Operations Should Adhere to Oversight Standards

GGD-96-114: Published: Jun 17, 1996. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts' (AOUSC) assessment of local court operations, focusing on whether AOUSC is promoting efficient administrative practices within the judiciary.

GAO found that: (1) AOUSC issued uniform written standards for nonfinancial program reviews in November 1995; (2) most of the reviews requested for fiscal years 1992 through 1994 were not conducted in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards, contained incomplete reports, were not distributed properly, and did not indicate appropriate corrective actions; (3) AOUSC created a network of 35 program review officers that serve as focal points and advisors for review and assessment activities within AOUSC; (4) the Office of Program Assessment (OPA) has initiated a series of court visits to better identify program units needing additional oversight; (5) OPA does not require its program reviewers to be independent of the units they are assessing or to prepare formal reports for each program review; (6) AOUSC has created a program that achieves savings by systematically identifying better, more efficient practices; and (7) it is too early to determine whether the program is having an impact on operational costs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The recommendation was implemented; the agency agreed with the recommended action.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that AOUSC program assessments meet generally accepted auditing standards, the Director, AOUSC, should direct OPA to amend those standards to provide greater assurance against a potential perception of reviewer bias by knowledgeable third parties and greater assurance that all review team findings will be documented and reported to judiciary officials who can act on them.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The agency agreed with the recommended action.

    Recommendation: To help ensure that AOUSC program assessments meet generally accepted auditing standards, the Director, AOUSC, should direct OPA to check each AOUSC division's compliance with both its plan for conducting program assessments and the standards and study guide for conducting those assessments.

    Agency Affected: Administrative Office of the United States Courts

 

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