GAO: Continuing Resolution, Sequestration Impact Timing of Federal Agency Spending

The Government Accountability Office has found that officials at federal agencies tend to limit their expenditures early in the fiscal year due to continuing resolutions, sequestration and other budget uncertainties.

GAO said Wednesday the finding is based on the assessment of its testimonies and reports on agency budgets from 2009 through 2016.

The report showed that agencies operating under CR deferred contracts and recruitment as well as transitioned grant cycles and contracts to the latter part of the fiscal year to prevent repetitive work.

GAO also evaluated the effects of an appropriations lapse in 2013 and found that agencies experienced programmatic and budget delays as a result of the government shutdown.

The congressional watchdog also cited legal controls that affect how agencies can spend the obligated funds throughout the fiscal year and one of those is the availability period of funds and other fiscal characteristics.

An agency’s inability to appropriate the current budget to address requirements in future fiscal years is also listed as one of the legal constraints.

GAO also found that the Antideficiency Act and the Impoundment Control Act are examples of laws that require agencies to avoid “both over-obligating and under-obligating funds” appropriated for the fiscal year.

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