Major Management Challenges and Program Risks

Department of Labor Gao ID: OCG-99-11 January 1, 1999

This publication is part of GAO's performance and accountability series which provides a comprehensive assessment of government management, particularly the management challenges and program risks confronting federal agencies. Using a "performance-based management" approach, this landmark set of reports focuses on the results of government programs--how they affect the American taxpayer--rather than on the processes of government. This approach integrates thinking about organization, product and service delivery, use of technology, and human capital practices into every decision about the results that the government hopes to achieve. The series includes an overview volume discussing governmentwide management issues and 20 individual reports on the challenges facing specific cabinet departments and independent agencies. The reports take advantage of the wealth of new information made possible by management reform legislation, including audited financial statements for major federal agencies, mandated by the Chief Financial Officers Act, and strategic and performance plans required by the Government Performance and Results Act. In a companion volume to this series, GAO also updates its high-risk list of government operations and programs that are particularly vulnerable to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.

GAO noted that: (1) DOL lacks adequate information to assess whether many of its programs are operating efficiently and are producing intended results; (2) because some of DOL's responsibilities are fragmented or duplicated, either within the Department or by activities in other federal departments, obtaining overall information on the impact of the entire federal effort is particularly difficult; (3) DOL has shown limited capacity to effectively coordinate the activities of the many units at the federal, state, and local levels that share responsibility for implementing worker protection laws and various workforce development programs; (4) recent legislative and program changes affecting key DOL functions call for increased coordination to determine whether services are being delivered effectively; (5) DOL also faces major challenges in the enforcement of its many workplace mandates--from family and medical leave to occupational safety and health; (6) to this point, DOL has not effectively leveraged its limited resources by using alternative enforcement strategies; (7) to its credit, DOL now provides some regulatory compliance information from many of its associated agencies through a web site; (8) however, DOL needs to work more effectively with workers and employers to develop other regulatory approaches that show promise in enabling agencies to perform their statutory missions more effectively and at less cost to taxpayers; (9) the inability of some DOL computer systems to properly distinguish between the years 2000 and 1900 is potentially a critical challenge, putting at risk unemployment insurance benefits payments and the timely issuance of economic statistics; (10) adding to the complexity of this challenge is the fact that these data rely on many information systems outside DOL; (11) should states' systems fail to operate properly because of year-2000-related failures, both benefits payments and tax collections could be jeopardized; (12) Labor has made progress in recognizing and correcting the data limitations that inhibit its ability to adequately assess the impact of its activities and has improved its performance planning efforts, but it has much additional ground to cover; and (13) although Labor has made progress in coordinating its efforts through its strategic planning process, Labor needs to be more proactive in engaging all agencies with collateral responsibilities relating to its missions.

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