High-Risk Series

An Overview Gao ID: HR-97-1 February 1, 1997

In 1990, GAO began a special effort to identify federal programs at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. GAO issued a series of reports in December 1992 on the fundamental causes of the problems in the high-risk areas; it followed up on the status of these areas in February 1995. This, GAO's third series of high-risk reports, revisits these troubled government programs and designates five additional areas as high-risk (defense infrastructure, information security, the year 2000 problem, supplemental security income, and the 2000 decennial census), bringing to 25 the number of high-risk programs on GAO's list. The high-risk series includes an overview, a quick reference guide, and 12 individual reports. The high-risk series may be ordered as a full set, a two-volume package including the overview and the quick reference guide, or as 12 separate reports describing in detail these vulnerable government programs. GAO summarized the high-risk series in testimony before Congress (GAO/T-HR-97-22).

GAO found that: (1) overall, agencies are taking high-risk problems seriously, trying to correct them, and making progress in many areas; (2) Congress has also acted to address problems affecting these high-risk areas through oversight hearings and specific legislative initiatives, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 to protect Medicare from exploitation and Title VI of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996 to reduce the financial risk associated with farm lending programs; (3) landmark legislation in the 1990s also established broad management reforms, which, if implemented successfully, will help resolve high-risk problems and provide greater accountability in many government programs and operations, including financial management, information technology, acquisition of goods and services, and debt collection; (4) the administration has embraced these management reforms and has made implementation of them a priority; (5) full and effective implementation of legislative mandates, GAO's suggestions, and corrective measures by agencies, however, has not yet been achieved because the high-risk areas involve long-standing problems that are difficult to correct; (6) as a result, while agencies are making progress, these problems must be more fully resolved before GAO can remove their high-risk designation; and (7) to ensure that this occurs, sustained management attention and congressional oversight are necessary.

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