Closure of the Community Services Administration and Implementation of the Block Grant Program

Gao ID: 116599 October 6, 1981

GAO commented on recent efforts by personnel from various Federal departments and agencies to simultaneously carry out the orderly closure of the Community Services Administration's (CSA) activities and implement the Community Services Block Grant program in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The CSA closure was effective on September 30, and the Community Services Block Grant Program began on October 1. GAO believed that the lessons to be learned from this recent experience of executive branch officials could be invaluable if and when future strategies for the termination of other Federal departments or agencies' programs are developed. Also, Congress should ensure that sufficient time and resources are made available to executive branch officials in such situations. In this manner, orderly phaseouts which safeguard the Government's interests and assets can be assured. The actions taken from mid-March through September within the executive branch to close CSA and implement a transition to a block grant approach for providing community services were initiated without a central plan agreed upon by all participating agencies. The problems which occurred in the last 2 months were, according to GAO, a direct result of the lack of central planning. If the Office of Management and Budget had developed a contigency plan as soon as the decision was made to close CSA and provide community services funding through block grants, both CSA and HHS activities could have been accomplished in a more efficient and orderly manner. CSA, under the leadership of its new director, did a credible job over the last 3 months in planning for and implementing those actions needed to close-out the agency and assist in the transition to the block grant program. The CSA management team persisted in continuing ongoing program administration, developing and implementing internal and interagency transition activities necessary for transfer to the block grant approach, and providing for agency closeout, despite low morale and a decreasing staff. Unfortunately, the CSA database used to support key agency reporting and management systems was highly unreliable in many respects. Portions of the financial management systems were inadequate for the special closeout demands. In retrospect, if Congress had provided a more reasonable amount of time for CSA to complete its activities, the closeout might have been done in a more orderly and efficient manner.

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