A report for Congress highlights the issue of unresolved recommendations in GAO and agency IG audits, which it says “can, and often do, serve as raw material for the oversight and legislative work of Congress.”
Agency compliance, or lack of it, with those recommendations has been a long-running issue; both GAO and the IGs in recent years have started publicizing how many remain pending and for how long. GAO’s list includes nearly 5,000 open recommendations of which it deems about 450 as high priority for potentially making a particularly significant impact—including some directly pertinent to federal personnel management including workforce planning; addressing employee misconduct; use of incentives and other special pay authorities; and skills gaps.
The council of agency IGs tally lists some 14,000 open recommendations.
Says a report from the Congressional Research Service, “reviewing recommendations is one way that Congress can identify and learn about issues that may warrant additional oversight. GAO and OIGs have resources, access, and technical expertise that allow them to identify and analyze matters that Congress may find it difficult to uncover in hearings or through staff casework. Further, when recommendations and reports are the basis for oversight hearings, GAO and OIGs might be invited to testify on their findings along with related agencies.”
“While neither GAO nor OIGs can compel agencies to act, it is often the case that reporting on an issue to Congress is sufficient to encourage agency action. In this context, tracking of unresolved recommendations by GAO and CIGIE may be useful. Congress might seek to monitor how quickly agencies act on recommendations and when recommendations remain unresolved. That knowledge may drive additional oversight by identifying less responsive agencies or highlighting especially challenging issues, both of which may warrant attention,” it says.
It adds: “Factors such as the seriousness of an issue, public awareness and concern, or the perceived effectiveness of an agency’s response may influence Congress’s course of action. For instance, Congress might not pass legislation to address a recommendation the first time it is presented but could become more likely to act if a recommendation remains unresolved over time.”
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