Federal Manager's Daily Report

Warning that the “risk of improper payments increases when agencies spend billions of dollars quickly,” GAO has said that OMB put insufficient controls in place over disaster relief spending in 2017 and that agencies the GAO’s auditors reviewed failed to live up even to those.

OMB “did not have an effective strategy to ensure that agencies timely submitted internal control plans” and issued guidance to agencies as required by Congress just one day before the March 31 deadline in that year, a report said. Congress had imposed certain additional controls in enacting a series of special supplemental appropriations, totaling some $120 billion, in response to the closely-grouped Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and California wildfires.

Of the six agencies GAO reviewed in detail only one, Education, submitted its plan by the deadline. Also, the plans did not include sufficient information for GAO to determine if the agencies met the OMB directive—memo M-18-14—and federal internal control standards’ documentation requirements.

“For example, two of the five plans GAO reviewed included information that demonstrated that the plans complemented the agencies’ existing risk management practices, while three plans lacked sufficient information to make such a determination. Further, M-18-14 lacked specific instructions to agencies on what to include in their internal control plans,” it said.

OMB meanwhile “did not have an effective outreach strategy to help ensure that agencies had proper guidance in developing and reporting their plans . . . Without a clear OMB strategy for preparing for oversight of future disaster relief funding, there is an increased risk that agencies will not appropriately assess risks associated with disaster relief funding,” it said.