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GAO Urges OMB to Update Guidance on Federal Program Inventory

budget analysis reviewThe Government Accountability Office has asked the Office of Management and Budget to update its guidance on how to establish a federal program inventory following a set approach for defining programs and reporting relevant information.

GAO said Friday that OMB’s inventory needs work in pinpointing similar programs among the different agencies due to inconsistencies in the program definitions used and the type of information included.

The agency intends to use the inventory as a tool to guide government decision-making as part of the GPRA Modernization Act of 2010.

GAO said OMB’s current guidelines allow flexibility in reporting program information based on lessons learned from a 2012 pilot effort that indicated the ineffectivity of a one-size-fits-all approach.

However, the program inventory published in May 2013 from data provided by 24 federal agencies showed shortcomings in the comparability of programs, which GAO notes could be due to a lack of coordination between agencies.

The agency said the information also did not include GPRAMA requirements, such as program-level budget and complete performance data, and that the participating agencies did not consult with external stakeholders like Congress and service providers.

GAO recommends that OMB expand its guidance to include inventories from more agencies and additional information such as tax expenditures, and to utilize a web-based presentation of the information.

“Covering additional agencies and tax expenditures in the federal program inventory, along with web-based sorting capabilities, would help decision makers determine the scope of the federal government’s involvement in a particular area, and therefore where action is needed to better address fragmentation, overlap or duplication,” GAO said.

The agency also pointed to coordination between federal agencies to consistently define programs and identify those with shared goals.

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