What GAO Found
The Air Force relies on its financial management systems to help manage department operations and support core accounting activities, such as maintaining financial records and making payments. Its environment is complex and consists of multiple systems that are not fully integrated, preventing Air Force management from obtaining timely, accurate, and reliable information on the results of its business operations. To address these issues, the Air Force has been migrating from its legacy, or aging, financial management systems to more modern target systems. One such key target is the Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System (DEAMS), which is to be the Air Force’s core accounting and finance system. DEAMS has been deployed incrementally to Air Force users since 2005, and the Air Force plans to expand its use in the future (see figure).
Air Force’s Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System (DEAMS) Timeline
The Air Force has not followed leading practices, such as developing a migration plan to guide its transition from the existing legacy system to DEAMS. Instead, the Air Force decided to pursue a dual processing policy in which the legacy and target systems would both continue to operate for at least the next 10 years. The continued use of the legacy system means that resolution of its deficiencies would be delayed for many years. Further, associated internal control weaknesses would also persist.
Auditors have identified numerous issues related to the Air Force’s broader financial management systems, including DEAMS. For fiscal year 2020, auditors reported deficiencies including nonintegrated Air Force financial systems, an insufficient financial reporting process, and a lack of controls in the design of information systems. While the Air Force has some efforts under way to address financial management system–related deficiencies, it does not have a comprehensive strategy encompassing the entirety of its financial management systems modernization efforts. Without such a comprehensive financial management system strategy, it will be more difficult for the Air Force to report accurate and reliable financial information. Moreover, the Air Force will continue to face difficulties developing and fully implementing Air Force–wide corrective action plans to address the system-related issues that auditors identified. These issues have led to the Air Force not being able to provide sufficient, appropriate audit evidence to support the reported amounts in its financial statements.
Why GAO Did This Study
The Air Force is currently modernizing and migrating its financial management systems as part of a broader effort to improve financial management operations and prepare auditable financial statements. Successful system migration is key to the Air Force addressing weaknesses that financial statement auditors have identified.
The Government Management Reform Act of 1994 includes a provision for GAO to audit the U.S. government’s consolidated financial statements. This report examines the extent to which the Air Force is (1) following leading practices for its financial management system migration and (2) planning to address the financial management system–related issues that auditors identified.
GAO reviewed guidance on system migration leading practices; observed DEAMS program operations; reviewed documentation related to the Air Force’s migration efforts and strategy, financial statement audit results, and efforts to resolve system deficiencies; and interviewed cognizant officials.
- Joint Statement by The NATO Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan
August 20, 2021
- Nepali Constitution Day
September 18, 2021
- National Freedom Day: Deepening Our Resolve to Fight Human Trafficking
February 1, 2021
- Homeless Women Veterans: Actions Needed to Ensure Safe and Appropriate Housing
August 24, 2021What GAO FoundLimited VA data show the number of women veterans it has identified as homeless more than doubled, from 1,380 in fiscal year 2006 to 3,328 in fiscal year 2010. Although these data are not generalizable to the overall population of homeless women veterans, we identified some characteristics of these women. For example, almost two-thirds were between 40 and 59 years old and over one-third had disabilities. In addition, many of these women resided with their minor children.HUD collects data on homeless women and on homeless veterans, but does not collect detailed information on homeless women veterans. Neither VA nor HUD collect data on the total number of homeless women veterans in the general population. Further, they lack data on the characteristics and needs of these women on a national, state, and local level. Absent more complete data, VA does not have the information needed to plan services effectively, allocate grants to providers, and track progress toward its overall goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. According to knowledgeable VA and HUD officials we spoke with, collecting data specific to homeless women veterans would incur minimal burden and cost.Homeless women veterans were not always aware of veteran housing services, which posed a significant barrier to access, according to GPD programs we surveyed, service providers, agency officials, and experts we interviewed. Some VA Medical Center homeless coordinators reported challenges in reaching this population. However, VA has recently launched an outreach campaign to increase awareness that includes materials specific to homeless women veterans.VA requires its staff to give homeless veterans a referral for shelter or short-term housing while they await placement in veteran housing; however, several homeless women veterans told us they did not receive such referrals. In addition, about 24 percent of VA Medical Center homeless coordinators indicated not having referral plans or processes in place for temporarily housing homeless women veterans while they await placement in HUD-VASH and GPD programs. According to our data analysis, women veterans waited an average of 4 months before securing HUD-VASH housing. In addition, about one fourth of GPD providers reported that women veterans had to wait for placement in their programs and the median wait was 30 days. Without referrals for shelter or temporary housing during these waits, homeless women veterans may be at risk of physical harm and further trauma on the streets or in other unsafe places.More than 60 percent of surveyed GPD programs that serve homeless women veterans did not house children, and most programs that did house children had restrictions on the ages or numbers of children. In our survey, GPD providers cited lack of housing for women with children as a significant barrier to accessing veteran housing. In addition, several noted there were financial disincentives for providers, as VA does not have the statutory authority to reimburse them for costs of housing veterans children. Limited housing for women and their children puts these families at risk of remaining homeless.Homeless women veterans we talked to cited safety concerns about GPD housing, and 9 of the 142 GPD programs we surveyed indicated that there had been reported incidents of sexual harassment or assault on women residents in the past 5 years. GPD providers also cited safety concerns as a barrier to accessing veteran housing. In response to a recent report by the VA Inspector General, VA has begun to evaluate safety and security arrangements at GPD programs that serve women. However, VA does not have gender-specific safety and security standards for its GPD housing, potentially putting women veterans at risk of sexual harassment or assault. While VA is taking stepssuch as launching an outreach campaignto end homelessness among all veterans, it does not have sufficient data about the population and needs of women veterans to plan effectively for increases in their numbers as servicemembers return from Iraq and Afghanistan. Further, without improved services, womenincluding those with children and those who have experienced military sexual traumaremain at risk of homelessness and experiencing further abuse.Why GAO Did This StudyAs more women serve in the military, the number of women veterans has grown substantially, doubling from 4 percent of all veterans in 1990 to 8 percent, or an estimated 1.8 million, today. The number of women veterans will continue to increase as servicemembers return from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these women veterans, like their male counterparts, face challenges readjusting to civilian life and are at risk of becoming homeless. Such challenges may be particularly pronounced for those women veterans who have disabling psychological conditions resulting from military sexual trauma and for those who are single mothers.The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has committed to ending homelessness among all veterans by 2015 and funds several programs to house homeless veterans. The two largest are the VA Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program, which provides transitional housing and supportive services; and HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), which is a joint program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and VA offering permanent supportive housing.While these programs have expanded in recent years to serve more veterans, it remains unclear whether they are meeting the housing needs of all homeless women veterans. To respond to your interest in this issue, this report addresses (1) What is known about the characteristics of homeless women veterans, including those with disabilities? (2) What barriers, if any, do homeless women veterans face in accessing and using VAs Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem and HUD-VA Supportive Housing programs?For more information, contact Daniel Bertoni at (202) 512-7215 or email@example.com.
- Visit by Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to Morocco for the Reopening of the Israeli Liaison Office
August 13, 2021
- Judiciary Renews Calls for Security Funding
In U.S CourtsAugust 16, 2021Judiciary leaders are expressing deep concern that Congress has failed to provide funding to protect federal judges and courthouses, and are urging House and Senate leaders to appropriate money to address a “worsening” safety environment.
- COVID-19: Urgent Actions Needed to Better Ensure an Effective Federal Response
November 30, 2020The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in catastrophic loss of life and substantial damage to the global economy, stability, and security. According to federal data, the U.S. had an average of 116,000 new COVID-19 cases per day from November 1 through November 12, 2020. Between January 2020 and October 2020, at least 237,000 more deaths occurred from all causes, including COVID-19, than would normally be expected, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further, while the economy has improved since July 2020, many people remain unemployed, including both those temporarily laid off and those who have permanently lost their job (see figure). Also, more households have become seriously delinquent on mortgage payments during the pandemic. In addition, GAO’s review of academic studies suggests the pandemic will likely remain a significant obstacle to more robust economic activity. Number of Unemployed Workers Permanently Losing Jobs and on Temporary Layoff, January 2019 through October 2020 In response to the pandemic and its effects, Congress and the administration have taken a series of actions to protect the health and well-being of Americans. However, as the end of 2020 approaches, urgent actions are needed to help ensure an effective federal response on a range of public health and economic issues. Medical Supplies While the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have made numerous efforts to mitigate supply shortages and expand the medical supply chain, shortages of certain supplies persist. In September 2020, GAO reported that ongoing constraints with the availability of certain types of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies remain due to a supply chain with limited domestic production and high global demand. In October 2020, GAO surveyed public health and emergency management officials from all states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories (hereafter states) and found the following: Testing supplies. Most states reported no shortages of swabs or transport media, but about one-third to one-half reported shortages in other types of testing supplies (see figure). State-Reported Testing Supply Shortages, as of October 2020 GAO surveyed officials in the 50 states; Washington, D.C.; and the five U.S. territories and received responses from 47 of the 56 locations, representing 41 states; Washington, D.C.; and all five territories. Not all states responded to every question. PPE. The majority of states that responded were mainly able to fulfill requests for supplies from organizations and entities within their states. However, availability constraints continue with certain PPE, such as nitrile gloves. Supplies for future vaccine needs. About one-third of states that responded stated that they were “greatly” or “completely” concerned about having sufficient vaccine-related supplies to administer COVID-19 vaccines. An additional 21 states indicated that they were moderately concerned. In September 2020, GAO recommended that HHS, in coordination with FEMA, should further develop and communicate to stakeholders plans outlining specific actions the federal government will take to help mitigate supply chain shortages for the remainder of the pandemic; immediately document roles and responsibilities for supply chain management functions transitioning to HHS, including continued support from other federal partners, to ensure sufficient resources exist to sustain and make the necessary progress in stabilizing the supply chain; and devise interim solutions, such as systems and guidance and dissemination of best practices, to help states enhance their ability to track the status of supply requests and plan for supply needs for the remainder of the pandemic response. HHS and the Department of Homeland Security disagreed with these recommendations, noting, among other things, the work that they had done to manage the medical supply chain and increase supply availability. In November 2020, HHS repeated its disagreement with GAO’s recommendations and noted its efforts to meet the needs of states. In light of the surge in COVID-19 cases, along with reported shortages, including GAO’s nationwide survey findings, GAO underscores the critical imperative for HHS and FEMA to implement GAO’s September 2020 recommendations. Vaccines and Therapeutics In a recent GAO report (GAO-21-207), GAO found that there has been significant federal investment to accelerate vaccine and therapeutic development, such as through Operation Warp Speed, a partnership between the Department of Defense and HHS that aims to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. Separately, Emergency Use Authorizations (EUA), which allow for the emergency use of medical products without Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval or licensure provided certain statutory criteria are met, have also been used for therapeutics. As of November 9, 2020, FDA had made four therapeutics available to treat COVID-19 through EUAs. In that report, GAO recommended that FDA identify waysto uniformly discloseinformation from its scientific review of safety and effectiveness data when issuing EUAs for therapeutics and vaccines. By doing so, FDA could help improve the transparency of, and ensure public trust in, its EUA decisions. HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with the recommendation, but said it shared GAO’s goal of transparency. COVID-19 Testing Guidance HHS and its component agencies have taken several key actions to document a federal COVID-19 testing strategy and provide testing-related agency guidance. However, this guidance has not always been transparent, raising the risk of confusion and eroding trust in government. In particular, while it is expected that guidance will change as new information about the novel virus evolves, frequent changes to general CDC testing guidelines have not always been communicated with a scientific explanation. GAO recommends that HHS ensure that CDC clearly discloses the scientific rationale for any change to testing guidelines at the time the changeis made. HHS concurred with this recommendation. Types of COVID-19 Testing Approaches Nursing Home Care In September 2020, the Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes (established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in June 2020) made 27 recommendations to CMS on topics such as testing, PPE, and visitation. CMS released a response to the commission that broadly outlined the actions it has taken to date, but it has not fully addressed the commission’s recommendations or provided an implementation plan to track and report progress toward implementing them. While CMS is not obligated to implement all of the commission’s recommendations, the agency has not indicated any areas where it does not plan to take action. GAO recommends that CMS quickly develop a plan that further details how it intends to respond to and implement, as appropriate, the commission’s recommendations. HHS neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation and said it would refer to and act upon the commission’s recommendations, as appropriate. In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) partners with state governments to provide nursing home care to more than 20,000 veterans in over 150 state veterans homes. In March 2020, VA instructed its contractor to stop in-person inspections due to concerns about COVID-19. As of September 2020, these inspections had not resumed, leaving veterans at risk of receiving poor quality care. Additionally, VA does not collect timely data on the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths occurring at each state veterans home, hindering its ability to monitor and take steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in these homes. GAO recommends that VA (1) develop a plan to resume inspections of state veterans homes, which may include using in-person, a mix of virtual and in-person, or fully virtual inspections, and (2) collect timely data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in each state veterans home. VA concurred with both recommendations. Economic Impact Payments The CARES Act included economic impact payments (EIP) for eligible individuals to address financial stress due to the pandemic. As of September 30, 2020, the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had disbursed over 165.8 million payments to individuals, totaling $274.7 billion. According to IRS data, more than 26 million non-filers—individuals who do not normally file a tax return and may be hard to reach—received a payment (see figure). However, everyone that was supposed to receive a payment was not reached. Starting in September 2020, IRS sent notices to nearly 9 million individuals who had not yet received an EIP. Number of Filers and Non-Filers Issued an Economic Impact Payment, as of September 30, 2020 Treasury and IRS officials did not plan to track and analyze the outcomes of their EIP notice mailing effort until 2021. The lack of timely analysis deprives Treasury and IRS of data they could use to assess the effectiveness of their notice strategy and redirect resources as needed to other outreach and communication efforts. GAO recommends that Treasury, in coordination with IRS, should begin tracking and publicly reporting the number of individuals who were mailed an EIP notification letter and filed for and received an EIP, and use that information to inform ongoing outreach and communications efforts. Treasury agreed with this recommendation. Unemployment Insurance The CARES Act created three federally funded temporary programs for unemployment insurance (UI) that expanded benefit eligibility and enhanced benefits. In its weekly news releases, the Department of Labor (DOL) publishes the number of weeks of unemployment benefits claimed by individuals in each state during the period and reports the total count as the number of people claiming benefits nationwide. DOL officials told GAO that they have traditionally used this number as a proxy for the number of individuals claiming benefits because they were closely related. However, the number of claims has not been an accurate estimate of the number of individuals claiming benefits during the pandemic because of backlogs in processing a historic volume of claims, among other data issues. Without an accurate accounting of the number of individuals who are relying on these benefits in as close to real time as possible, policymakers may be challenged to respond to the crisis at hand. GAO recommends that DOL (1) revise its weekly news releases to clarify that in the current unemployment environment, the numbers it reports for weeks of unemployment claimed do not accurately estimate the number of unique individuals claiming benefits, and (2) pursue options to report the actual number of distinct individuals claiming benefits, such as by collecting these already available data from states. DOL agreed with the recommendation to revise its weekly news releases, and partially agreed with the recommendation to pursue options to report the actual number of distinct individuals claiming benefits. Tax Relief for Businesses To provide liquidity to businesses during the pandemic, the CARES Act included tax measures to help businesses receive cash refunds or other reductions to tax obligations. Some taxpayers need to file an amended income tax return to take advantage of these provisions; at the same time, IRS faces an increase in mail and paper processing delays due to the pandemic, which may delay the timely processing of this paperwork and issuance of these refunds. GAO recommends that IRS update its form instructions to include information on its electronic filing capability for tax year 2019. IRS agreed with this recommendation. Program Integrity Although the extent and significance of improper payments associated with COVID-19 relief funds have not yet been determined, the impact of these improper payments, including those that are the result of fraud, could be substantial. For example, numerous individuals are facing federal charges related to attempting to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), UI program, or other federal programs, and many more investigations are underway. To address the risk of improper payments due to fraud and other causes, GAO previously recommended the following: The Small Business Administration (SBA) should develop and implement plans to identify and respond to risks in the PPP to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in consultation with Treasury, should issue timely guidance for auditing new and existing COVID-19-related programs, including Coronavirus Relief Fund payments, as soon as possible. Audits of entities that receive federal funds are critical to the federal government’s ability to help safeguard those funds.Also, Congress should amend the Social Security Act to explicitly allow the Social Security Administration to share its full death data with Treasury for data matching to prevent payments to ineligible individuals. GAO maintains that implementing these recommendations fully is critically important in order to protect federal funds from improper payments resulting from fraud and other risks. In this report, GAO also identifies new concerns about the timely reporting of improper payments for COVID-19 programs. The COVID-19 relief laws appropriated over a trillion dollars that may be spent through newly established programs to fund response and recovery efforts, such as SBA’s PPP. However, unlike the supplemental appropriations acts that provided for disaster relief related to the 2017 hurricanes and California wildfires, the COVID-19 relief laws did not require agencies to deem programs receiving these relief funds that expend more than a threshold amount as “susceptible to significant improper payments.” In addition, based on OMB guidance, improper payment estimates associated with new COVID-19 programs established in March 2020 may not be reported until November 2022, in some instances. GAO is making two recommendations: OMB should develop and issueguidance directingagencies to include COVID-19 relief funding with associated key risks, such as changes to existing program eligibility rules, as part of their improper payment estimation methodologies, especially for existing programs that received COVID-19 relief funding. SBA should expeditiously estimate improper payments and report estimates and error rates for PPP due to concerns about the possibility that improper payments, including those resulting from fraudulent activity, could be widespread. GAO is also suggesting that Congress consider, in any future legislation appropriating COVID-19 relief funds, designating all executive agency programs and activities making more than $100 million in payments from COVID-19 relief funds as “susceptible to significant improper payments.” Aviation Assistance and Preparedness GAO identified concerns about efforts to monitor CARES Act financial assistance to the aviation sector. Treasury’s Payroll Support Program (PSP) provides $32 billion in payroll support payments and loans to help the aviation industry retain its employees. While recipients have begun submitting required compliance reports, Treasury has not yet finalized a monitoring system to identify and respond to the risk of noncompliance with PSP agreement terms, potentially hindering its ability to detect program misuse in a timely manner. GAO is recommending that Treasury finish developing and implement acompliance monitoringplan that identifies and responds to risks in the PSP. Treasury neither agreed nor disagreed with this recommendation, but committed to reviewing additional measures that may further enhance its compliance monitoring and ensure that PSP funds are used as intended. In June 2020, GAO suggested that Congress take legislative action to require the Secretary of Transportation to work with relevant agencies, such as HHS, the Department of Homeland Security, and other stakeholders, to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan to limit the spread of communicable diseasethreats and minimize traveland trade impacts. GAO originally made this recommendation to the Department of Transportation in December 2015. GAO urges Congress to take swift action to require such a plan, without which the U.S. will not be as prepared to minimize and quickly respond to ongoing and future communicable disease events. As of November 12, 2020, the U.S. had over 10.3 million cumulative reported cases of COVID-19 and about 224,000 reported deaths, according to federal agencies. The country also continues to experience serious economic repercussions. Four relief laws, including the CARES Act, were enacted as of November 2020 to provide appropriations to address the public health and economic threats posed by COVID-19. As of September 30, 2020, of the $2.6 trillion appropriated by these acts, the federal government had obligated a total of $1.8 trillion and expended $1.6 trillion of the COVID-19 relief funds, as reported by federal agencies. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines the federal government’s continued efforts to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO reviewed data, documents, and guidance from federal agencies about their activities and interviewed federal and state officials. GAO also sent a survey to public health and emergency management officials in the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the five U.S. territories regarding medical supplies. GAO is making 11 new recommendations for agencies that are detailed in this Highlights and in the report. GAO is also raising one matter for congressional consideration. For more information, contact A. Nicole Clowers at (202)512-7114 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Justice Department Issues Business Review Letter for Proposed University Technology Licensing Program
January 13, 2021The Justice Department’s Antitrust Division announced today that it has completed its review of a proposed joint patent licensing pool known as the University Technology Licensing Program (UTLP). UTLP is a proposal by participating universities to offer licenses to their physical science patents relating to specified emerging technologies.
- Virtual Currencies: Additional Information Could Improve Federal Agency Efforts to Counter Human and Drug Trafficking
January 10, 2022What GAO Found This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in September 2021. Therefore, this report omits sensitive information and data on selected federal agencies’ activities to counter human and drug trafficking, associated use of virtual currency, and related challenges. Virtual currency is increasingly used illicitly to facilitate human and drug trafficking, according to GAO’s review of agency documentation and data and interviews with officials. For example, the number of suspicious activity reports filed with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) that involve virtual currency and drug trafficking increased fivefold (from 252 to almost 1,432) from calendar year 2017 to 2020. However, in a sensitive version of this report, GAO found that data from selected federal agencies on virtual currency use for human and drug trafficking may not be consistently captured. Consequently, agencies may lack complete data when assessing or reporting on the illicit use of virtual currency in human and drug trafficking. In that report GAO made nine recommendations to selected agencies to enhance their data collection practices. Example of Virtual Currency Kiosk, Which May Be Used in Human and Drug Trafficking Selected federal agencies have taken actions to counter the illicit use of virtual currency in human and drug trafficking but face challenges. For example, FinCEN and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) oversee virtual currency entities. FinCEN imposes requirements for operators of virtual currency kiosks that are used to exchange virtual currencies for cash and are found in various locations such as convenience stores (see fig.). While kiosk operators are required to register with FinCEN, they are not required to routinely report the specific locations of their kiosks. This limits federal agencies’ ability to identify kiosks in areas that have been designated as high risk for financial crimes and could involve human and drug trafficking. Reviewing registration reporting requirements and taking appropriate action, as needed, to better identify individual kiosk locations by operator could help FinCEN and IRS identify high-risk kiosk operators to monitor for compliance, while also improving information law enforcement has available to identify potentially illicit transactions. Why GAO Did This Study Virtual currencies are an emerging payment method for transactions, such as retail purchases. Virtual currency’s anonymizing features can attract criminals’ use to avoid detection when paying for illicit activities, such as human and drug trafficking. Thus, policy makers, regulators, and law enforcement have identified virtual currency, human trafficking, and drug trafficking as priority areas of concern. GAO was asked to review the use of virtual currency to facilitate sex and drug trafficking. This report examines (1) the use of virtual currency for human and drug trafficking and the extent to which U.S. agencies collect data on these topics; and (2) the extent to which U.S. agencies have taken steps to counter human and drug trafficking facilitated by virtual currency and challenges these agencies face. GAO analyzed data, reviewed documentation, and interviewed relevant officials at selected federal agencies.
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with PRC Director Yang
February 6, 2021
- Final Defendants Sentenced in Federal Dog Fighting Case
September 27, 2021The last four of 12 defendants convicted on federal dog fighting charges were sentenced today in Albany, Georgia, by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. Collectively, the court sentenced the defendants to a total of 272 months in prison.
- Pharmacist Sentenced for $180 Million Health Care Fraud Scheme
January 26, 2022A Mississippi pharmacist was sentenced today to five years in prison in the Southern District of Mississippi for a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud TRICARE and private insurance companies by paying kickbacks to distributors for the referral of medically unnecessary prescriptions. The conduct resulted in more than $180 million in fraudulent billings, including more than $50 million paid by federal health care programs.
- Whistleblower Protection: Actions Needed to Strengthen Selected Intelligence Community Offices of Inspector General Programs
September 25, 2020The six Intelligence Community (IC)-element Offices of Inspectors General (OIG) that GAO reviewed collectively received 5,794 complaints from October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2018, and opened 960 investigations based on those complaints. Of the 960 investigations, IC-element OIGs had closed 873 (about 91 percent) as of August 2019, with an average case time ranging from 113 to 410 days to complete. Eighty-seven cases remained open as of August 2019, with the average open case time being 589 days. The number of investigations at each IC-element OIG varied widely based on factors such as the number of complaints received and each OIG’s determination on when to convert a complaint into an investigation. An OIG may decide not to convert a complaint into an investigation if the complaint lacks credibility or sufficient detail, or may refer the complainant to IC-element management or to another OIG if the complaint involves matters that are outside the OIG’s authority to investigate. Four of the IC-element OIGs—the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) OIG, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) OIG, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) OIG, and the National Security Agency (NSA) OIG—have a 180-days or fewer timeliness objective for their investigations. The procedures for the remaining two OIGs—the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community (ICIG) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) OIG—state that investigations should be conducted and reported in a timely manner. Other than those prescribed by statute, the ICIG and NGA OIG have not established timeliness objectives for their investigations. Establishing timeliness objectives could improve the OIGs’ ability to efficiently manage investigation time frames and to inform potential whistleblowers of these time frames. All of the selected IC-element OIG investigations units have implemented some quality assurance standards and processes, such as including codes of conduct and ethical and professional standards in their guidance. However, the extent to which they have implemented processes to maintain guidance, conduct routine quality assurance reviews, and plan investigations varies (see table). Implementation of Quality Assurance Standards and Practices by Selected IC-element OIG Investigations Units ICIG CIA OIG DIA OIG NGA OIG NRO OIG NSA OIG Regular updates of investigation guidance or procedures — — — ✓ — ✓ Internal quality assurance review routinely conducted — — ✓ — — — External quality assurance review routinely conducted — ✓ — — — — Required use of documented investigative plans ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ — ✓ Legend: ✓ = standard or practice implemented; — = standard or practice not implemented. Source: GAO analysis of IC-element OIG investigative policies and procedures. | GAO-20-699 The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s (CIGIE) Quality Standards for Investigations states that organizations should facilitate due professional care by establishing written investigative policies and procedures via handbooks, manuals, or similar mechanisms that are revised regularly according to evolving laws, regulations, and executive orders. By establishing processes to regularly update their procedures, the ICIG, CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NRO OIG could better ensure that their policies and procedures will remain consistent with evolving laws, regulations, Executive Orders, and CIGIE standards. Additionally, CIGIE’s Quality Standards for Federal Offices of Inspector General requires OIGs to establish and maintain a quality assurance program. The standards further state that internal and external quality assurance reviews are the two components of an OIG’s quality assurance program, which is an evaluative effort conducted by reviewers independent of the unit being reviewed to ensure that the overall work of the OIG meets appropriate standards. Developing quality assurance programs that incorporate both types of reviews, as appropriate, could help ensure that the IC-element OIGs adhere to OIG procedures and prescribed standards, regulations, and legislation, as well as identify any areas in need of improvement. Further, CIGIE Quality Standards for Investigations states that case-specific priorities must be established and objectives developed to ensure that tasks are performed efficiently and effectively. CIGIE’s standards state that this may best be achieved, in part, by preparing case-specific plans and strategies. Establishing a requirement that investigators use documented investigative plans for all investigations could facilitate NRO OIG management’s oversight of investigations and help ensure that investigative steps are prioritized and performed efficiently and effectively. CIA OIG, DIA OIG, and NGA OIG have training plans or approaches that are consistent with CIGIE’s quality standards for investigator training. However, while ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG have basic training requirements and tools to manage training, those OIGs have not established training requirements for their investigators that are linked to the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities, appropriate to their career progression, and part of a documented training plan. Doing so would help the ICIG, NRO OIG, and NSA OIG ensure that their investigators collectively possess a consistent set of professional proficiencies aligned with CIGIE’s quality standards throughout their entire career progression. Most of the IC-element OIGs GAO reviewed consistently met congressional reporting requirements for the investigations and semiannual reports GAO reviewed. The ICIG did not fully meet one reporting requirement in seven of the eight semiannual reports that GAO reviewed. However, its most recent report, which covers April through September 2019, met this reporting requirement by including statistics on the total number and type of investigations it conducted. Further, three of the six selected IC-element OIGs—the DIA, NGA, and NRO OIGs—did not consistently document notifications to complainants in the reprisal investigation case files GAO reviewed. Taking steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in such cases occur and are documented in the case files would provide these OIGs with greater assurance that they consistently inform complainants of the status of their investigations and their rights as whistleblowers. Whistleblowers play an important role in safeguarding the federal government against waste, fraud, and abuse. The OIGs across the government oversee investigations of whistleblower complaints, which can include protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Whistleblowers in the IC face unique challenges due to the sensitive and classified nature of their work. GAO was asked to review whistleblower protection programs managed by selected IC-element OIGs. This report examines (1) the number and time frames of investigations into complaints that selected IC-element OIGs received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018, and the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established timeliness objectives for these investigations; (2) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have implemented quality standards and processes for their investigation programs; (3) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have established training requirements for investigators; and (4) the extent to which selected IC-element OIGs have met notification and reporting requirements for investigative activities. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in June 2020. Information that the IC elements deemed sensitive has been omitted. GAO selected the ICIG and the OIGs of five of the largest IC elements for review. GAO analyzed time frames for all closed investigations of complaints received in fiscal years 2017 and 2018; reviewed OIG policies, procedures, training requirements, and semiannual reports to Congress; conducted interviews with 39 OIG investigators; and reviewed a selection of case files for senior leaders and reprisal cases from October 1, 2016, through March 31, 2018. GAO is making 23 recommendations, including that selected IC-element OIGs establish timeliness objectives for investigations, implement or enhance quality assurance programs, establish training plans, and take steps to ensure that notifications to complainants in reprisal cases occur. The selected IC-element OIGs concurred with the recommendations and discussed steps they planned to take to implement them. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604, email@example.com or Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Owner of Medical Laboratory Sentenced to Prison for Filing False Tax Returns
October 2, 2020A Shreveport, Louisiana, business owner was sentenced to 40 months in prison on Sept. 30, 2020, for filing false tax returns, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana Alexander C. Van Hook.
- Justice Department Settles Retaliation Claim Against Florida Electrician Company
February 4, 2021The Justice Department today announced that it reached a settlement agreement with Service Minds Inc., dba Mister Sparky (Service Minds), a company that provides contract electrical services to residential customers in Florida and Alabama. The settlement resolves a claim that the company retaliated against a work-authorized job applicant, in violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), when he and his wife challenged a U.S. citizens-only hiring rule that a recruiter had wrongly claimed was the company’s policy.
- Justice Department Settles with Texas-Based Staffing Company to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination
January 14, 2021The Department of Justice announced today that it reached a settlement with National Systems America, LP (National Systems), a Dallas, Texas-based staffing agency.
- Secretary Blinken’s Participation in the EU Foreign Affairs Council
January 25, 2022
- Military Training: DOD Met Annual Reporting Requirements and Improved Its Sustainable Ranges Report
August 31, 2021What GAO FoundIn our view, DOD’s 2012 sustainable ranges report meets the annual statutory reporting requirements that DOD describe its progress in implementing its sustainable ranges plan and any additional actions taken or to be taken in addressing training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace. DOD’s 2012 report also provides updates to several elements of the plan that the act required DOD to include in its original submission in 2004. These elements include (1) proposals to enhance training range capabilities and address any shortfalls in resources, (2) goals and milestones for tracking planned actions and measuring progress, and (3) projected funding requirements for implementing planned actions, among others. Taken together, these elements of DOD’s 2012 sustainable ranges report describe the department’s progress in implementing its comprehensive plan and addressing training constraints at its ranges, thus meeting the annual reporting requirements of the act.DOD has taken action in response to all 13 prior GAO recommendations that focused on meeting the requirements of the act and improving the report submissions and has completed implementation of all but two of those recommendations. In response to three recommendations in our 2011 report, DOD included additional information in its goals, actions, and milestones and funding requirements sections in the 2012 sustainable ranges report. In our earlier reviews of DOD’s annual sustainable ranges report, we identified a total of 10 recommendations. DOD has since completed implementation of all but two of the prior recommendations, which related to readiness reporting. DOD has been addressing these two recommendations by developing and testing a range assessment module for the Defense Readiness Reporting System (DRRS), and expects to complete its review by the end of fiscal year 2012. Through the changes DOD has implemented in its annual reporting over the past several years, many based on GAO recommendations, DOD has continued to improve its reporting on its sustainable ranges. We are making no new recommendations in this report.Why GAO Did This StudyThe Department of Defense (DOD) relies on access to military land, airspace, sea space, and frequency spectrum to provide its forces a realistic training environment that will ready them to face combat or complex missions around the globe. Over the decades, however, several factors collectively known as encroachment have increasingly challenged the military’s access to these resources. Additionally, increased operational tempo and overseas deployments, specifically in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, have strained the ability of some existing range resources and infrastructures to continue supporting training at the levels required by DOD and the military services. To respond to these challenges and increase the long-term sustainability of its military range resources, DOD has launched a number of efforts aimed both at preserving its training ranges and addressing the effects of its training activities on the environment and on local communities.Section 366 of the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003 (as amended) required DOD to submit a comprehensive plan for using existing authorities available to the department to address training constraints caused by limitations on the use of military lands, marine areas, and airspace in the United States and overseas to Congress at the same time as the President submitted his budget for fiscal year 2004. Further, Section 366 required DOD to submit an annual progress report to Congress along with the President’s budget for fiscal years 2005 through 2013. To address these requirements, DOD has submitted an annual sustainable ranges report since 2004. In addition, the act directed us to submit annual evaluations of DOD’s reports to Congress within 90 days of receiving these reports from DOD. Our review of DOD’s 2012 sustainable ranges report is our ninth annual report in response to the act. In this review, we discuss (1) the extent to which DOD’s 2012 sustainable ranges report meets the statutory requirements and (2) the extent to which DOD has acted on GAO recommendations to improve its report submissions and what opportunities, if any, exist for DOD to improve future reporting.For more information, contact Brian J. Lepore at (202) 512-4523 or email@example.com.
- General Aviation: Stakeholders Expressed Mixed Views of FAA Policies on Private Pilot Expense Sharing
February 18, 2021The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) primary rationale for its policies on private pilots’ sharing expenses with passengers is based on passenger expectations of safety. FAA policies allow private pilots to share the cost of certain flight expenses with passengers but prohibit these pilots from engaging in “common carriage,” which is communicating to the public a willingness to fly in exchange for compensation. These policies generally prohibit pilots from using the internet to find passengers. FAA officials said these policies are in place because they are concerned the public might expect a similar level of safety on private expense-sharing flights as commercial flights. However, the safety record of commercial aviation is better than that of private flying (general aviation). For example, according to data from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), commercial carriers had a fatal accident rate around 30 times lower than general aviation in 2018. FAA officials said their goal for FAA’s 2020 guidance on expense sharing was to restate and clarify existing policies. Example of an Aircraft Private Pilots Could Use for Expense-Sharing Flights Stakeholders described benefits of expense sharing but expressed mixed views on FAA’s policies and guidance. For example, stakeholders cited potential economic benefits to the general aviation sector and a potential expansion of the pool of future professional pilots as benefits of expense sharing. Most (eight of 13) stakeholders said FAA’s 2020 guidance on expense-sharing is clear and provides sufficient information. However, some stakeholders said the guidance could provide more definitive examples of allowed expense-sharing flights, and others disagreed with how FAA defined certain concepts such as how pilots can be compensated for flying passengers. Also, stakeholders split on whether FAA should allow pilots to use the internet to find expense-sharing passengers. Seven of 15 stakeholders, including four representatives from companies with expense-sharing applications, said FAA should allow pilots to use the internet to find these passengers by citing, for example, ongoing positive experiences in Europe. However, eight stakeholders, including six of seven professional organizations, said FAA should not. These stakeholders cited safety-related risks of expense sharing including what they characterized as FAA’s limited capacity to enforce current regulations and flights using less experienced pilots. Private flying is expensive, and FAA allows private pilots to reduce their costs by carrying passengers and sharing certain flight expenses with them. However, private pilots cannot engage in common carriage. If pilots do engage in common carriage, they are subject to FAA’s more stringent regulations covering commercial air carriers. Some private pilots have sought to use internet applications to find expense-sharing passengers. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 directed FAA to issue advisory guidance clarifying how private pilots may share expenses. In February 2020, FAA released this guidance as an advisory circular. The Act also includes a provision for GAO to review FAA’s policies on expense sharing. This report describes: (1) FAA’s rationale for its policies on how private pilots may find expense-sharing passengers and (2) selected stakeholder perspectives on FAA’s policies and the risks and benefits of arranging these expense-sharing flights online. GAO interviewed FAA officials on how FAA developed its policies and guidance related to expense sharing. GAO also reviewed FAA’s data on enforcement actions related to expense sharing and safety data from NTSB. In addition, GAO interviewed a non-generalizable sample of 15 private-sector stakeholders, including professional organizations, such as trade groups representing general aviation pilots, companies that developed expense-sharing internet applications, and flying clubs. For more information, contact Heather Krause at (202) 512-2834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- DRL Supporting Sudan’s Democratic Transition
September 27, 2020Bureau of Democracy, [Read More…]