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GAO's Views on H.R. 791, a Bill to Establish the Social Security Administration as an Independent Agency

T-HRD-89-7: Published: Mar 1, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 1, 1989.

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GAO discussed H.R. 791, which would make the Social Security Administration (SSA) an independent agency. GAO found that the bill would: (1) remove the Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs from the Department of Health and Human Services; (2) create an independent SSA headed by a three-member bipartisan board; (3) establish a beneficiary ombudsman within SSA; and (4) establish certain exemptions from the budget, personnel, and administrative requirements of central management agencies. GAO believes that: (1) SSA needs a strong single administrator appointed to a fixed 8-year term and assisted by an advisory board that would provide institutional memory on policy matters; (2) SSA should have the opportunity to show that it has the requisite management expertise to effectively delegate specific management authorities; (3) it should not be required to perform the contradictory functions of consulting on program implementation and reporting on program effectiveness; (4) SSA should have the contract authority for computer purchases and facility construction only after it has strengthened its financial controls; (5) SSA should base its requests for personnel on a comprehensive work-force plan, raise the current pay level for key technical and professional staff, and justify any increases in its senior- and executive-level staff with federal personnel regulations, rather than allowing the board to appoint staff; and (6) the roles of the board, the executive director, and the beneficiary ombudsman need clarification.

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