S. 3315: GAO Mandates Revision Act of 2012

S. 3315

GAO Mandates Revision Act of 2012

Sponsor
Sen. Thomas R. Carper

Date
December 12, 2012 (112th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Sarah Makin

Floor Situation

On Wednesday, December 12, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider S. 3315, the GAO Mandates Revision Act of 2012, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. The bill was introduced by Sen. Thomas Carper (D-DE) on June 20, 2012, and referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  On September 22, 2012, the bill was approved in the Senate, as amended, by unanimous consent.

Bill Summary

S. 3315 would reduce the number of reviews and audits conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for eight specified activities.  The Congress often requires that the GAO perform an annual examination of a program, agency, or other federal activity.  S. 3315 would modify or repeal a small number of the reviews and audits GAO is required to perform.

  1. The bill would amend the Arizona-Idaho Conservation Act of 1988 to require audits of the transactions of the U.S. Capitol Preservation Commission at least once every three years, rather than annually, unless the Chairman or Ranking Member of the House Committee on House Administration or the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, the Secretary of the Senate, or the Clerk of the House of Representatives requests that an audit be conducted at an earlier date.
  2. The bill would amend the Federal Courts Administration Act of 1992 to repeal the requirement that GAO compute the actuarial liability of the annuity fund every three years. This requirement is duplicative of the work currently being performed by an enrolled actuary and being independently audited by the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.
  3. The bill would amend the Reauthorization Act for the Office of National Drug Control Policy of 2006 to modify the annual mandate to review the Office (ONDCP) and instead require an audit in 2013 and every three years thereafter. GAO has reviewed numerous ONDCP programs annually since 2006 and the National Academy of Public Administration has done a comprehensive review of ONDCP Management.
  4. The bill would amend the Veterans' Benefits Act of 2012 to modify the annual GAO reporting requirement to require instead a single report no later than a year after the commencement of a specific demonstration project.
  5. The bill would amend the Semipostal Authorization Act to repeal the requirement that GAO issue interim reports four years after a semipostal stamp is first made available as well as a final report no later than six months before the semipostal stamp's scheduled expiration date.
  6. The bill would amend the Haitian Hemispheric Opportunity Through Partnership Encouragement Act of 2008 to strike the annual GAO reporting requirement for the Earned Import Allowance Program. The program has been relatively inactive, with future use of the program expected to be minimal. In addition, the Department of Commerce already collects information on the use of this program.
  7. The bill would amend the Veterans' Benefits Improvements Act of 1996 to strike the requirement that GAO conduct an annual audit of the American Battle Monuments Commission's financial statements. The Commission's statements will continue to be audited in accordance with other statutory provisions that make the Commission, like other executive agencies, responsible for having its own audit completed.
  8. The bill would amend the 2004 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act to change the GAO audit of the Senate Preservation Fund from an annual to a periodic one (occurring at least once every three years, or more frequently at the request of the Senate Rules Committee).

Background

According to Senate Report 219, GAO’s work sometimes results from the requests of Congressional committees or subcommittees, and sometimes it flows directly from a statute mandating GAO to report to Congress on a particular program, often at set intervals and with no end date. Although GAO can work with Congressional requestors to ensure that its work on their request serves Congress's current needs, GAO has little, if any, flexibility with respect to statutory mandates; even if it and relevant Congressional stakeholders agree that the report provides little benefit to Congress.

According to the report, eliminating unnecessary reports not only will take unnecessary work off of GAO's plate; it also will allow GAO to more quickly respond to Congressional requests for assistance in matters of great importance. Statutorily mandated reports and audits take priority over other reports requested by Congress, meaning that statutorily required work, regardless of its importance or urgency, often pushes more pressing and time-sensitive Congressional requests to the back of the queue. Last year, GAO initiated a process under which GAO conducted an agency-wide evaluation of its 102 recurring statutory mandates to identify those relating to programs at a low risk of mismanagement or other problems, or where GAO's recurring work otherwise generally added little value to the administration or oversight of the program. After identifying candidates for elimination, GAO worked with the Congressional committees of jurisdiction to determine whether the intended recipients of the reports concurred with GAO's recommendation to either modify or eliminate the statutory mandate.

Cost

CBO estimates that implementing the legislation would have no significant impact on the federal budget.  GAO has an annual budget of more than $500 million and prepares hundreds of products for the Congress each year. CBO expects that implementing S. 3315 would not significantly decrease the agency's current workload.  Any reduction in the agency's annual cost from implementing S. 3315 would depend on the amounts provided to GAO in future appropriation bills.  Enacting S. 3315 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.