Statistical Agencies

Adherence to Guidelines and Coordination of Budgets Gao ID: GGD-95-65 August 9, 1995

This report uses selected guidelines developed by the National Academy of Sciences to evaluate the performance of four statistical agencies--the Bureau of the Census and Economic Analysis in the Commerce Department, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Labor Department, and the National Center for Health Statistics in the Department of Health and Human Services. The National Academy of Sciences issued these guidelines to describe and to improve the effectiveness of federal statistical agencies and their operations. GAO also provides information on the role of the Office of Management and Budget in coordinating and overseeing the statistical activities of those agencies that constitute the federal statistical system.

GAO found that: (1) the four agencies adhered, with only minor exceptions, to five of the seven selected NAS guidelines; (2) the NAS guidelines emphasize the importance of a statistical agency maintaining the credibility of its data and that it be perceived as free from political interference and policy advocacy; (3) coordination and sharing between federal, state, and local statistical agencies increased their effectiveness and efficiency; (4) in general, each agency had a clearly defined and well-accepted mission statement, cooperated with data users, treated data providers fairly, openly described to users all aspects of its data, and widely disseminated its data; (5) the agencies did not fully adhere to the guideline on protecting their independence from political influence because they did not always sufficiently communicate their procedures to data users; (6) the agencies could not fully coordinate with other statistical agencies because of statute limitations to protect data providers' confidentiality; (7) OMB oversight and coordination of agencies' statistical activities is limited by a lack of staff resources; and (8) OMB is revising its formal process for reviewing statistical agencies' budgets in order to allocate its resources for coordination more effectively.

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