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Our assistance to the Congress at public hearings continues to remain high, as illustrated below. However, it is clear that the number of congressional oversight hearings and other GAO testimony opportunities will decline significantly in fiscal year 2001 as a result of factors beyond our control. Among these include the slow start of the 107th Congress due to the power sharing arrangements in the Senate, closer margins and committee leadership changes in the House, and delay in filling many Bush Administration policy positions.
We also exceeded our performance of previous years with respect to the rate at which the recommendations we made 4 years ago were implemented. We use a 4-year interval because our historical data show that agencies often need time to take action on our recommendations. By the end of fiscal year 2000, 78 percent of the recommendations we made in fiscal year 1996 had been implemented. As illustrated in the graphic below, this rate exceeds that of the preceding 3 years. Implemented recommendations correct the underlying causes of problems, weaknesses in internal controls, failures to comply with laws or regulations, or other matters impeding effective and efficient performance.
Significant Progress Made Addressing Management and Operational Issues
Last year, I outlined for you a number of major management and operational challenges facing GAO. These challenges included human capital, information technology, organizational, job processes, and communication issues within the agency. I am pleased to report that we made significant progress toward addressing many of these issues.
We continued to enhance our effectiveness and efficiency through a variety of means during fiscal year 2000, including issuing a strategic plan, establishing congressional protocols, realigning the agency, implementing key human capital initiatives, and increasing the use of information technology. These efforts to enhance and strengthen GAO and its services to the Congress and the American people include the following.
In the Spring of 2000, we issued our first strategic plan for the 21st century based on input from the Congress and supplemented by GAO's own expertise and other outreach efforts. The plan focuses on how we intend to support the Congress in helping to shape a more efficient and effective government. It describes our role and mission in the federal government; the core values that guide our work; the trends, conditions, and external factors underlying our plan; and our goals, objectives, and strategies for serving the Congress. Our intent is to update the strategic plan every 2 years for each Congress.
We established a set of congressional protocols to govern our interactions with and ensure our accountability to the Congress. These protocols, which underwent a 9month pilot test, set out clear, transparent, consistently applied policies and practices
for GAO's relations with the Congress to reduce miscommunication and ensure that all requesters are treated equitably. The final protocols were issued in November
We continued our outreach efforts to understand how best to meet congressional needs and assist the Congress in using our resources and services. During each Congress, I and other GAO executives plan to meet with the leadership of the Senate and House, all Committee Chairs and Ranking Minority Members, and Members of our oversight and appropriations committees to obtain feedback on our performance and information needed to update our strategic plan.
We issued our first-ever Accountability Report to the Congress discussing our performance and accountability in serving the Congress and the American people in fiscal year 1999. The report reviews our accomplishments in meeting our mission and sustaining our core values of accountability, integrity, and reliability. We also issued a performance plan for fiscal year 2001 that contains the performance measures and annual performance targets we will use to gauge progress toward accomplishing our strategic goals and objectives.
We also realigned the agency to better support the Congress and prepare ourselves with current and expected resource levels to meet the future challenges outlined in our strategic plan. To align GAO's structure with the goals in our strategic plan, we reorganized both our field and headquarters operations. The changes were primarily designed to better align our resources with our strategic plan, eliminate a layer of managerial hierarchy, reduce the number of organizational units, increase internal and external coordination activities with the Congress and other accountability organizations, clarify the roles and responsibilities of management, increase the number of personnel who perform rather than manage or review work, and increase the critical mass and enhance the flexibility of field resources.
We also began implementing a range of new and enhanced human capital and information technology strategies to position GAO for future success. Thanks to the Congress, we now have legislative authority that provides us greater flexibility to effectively manage our human capital. This legislation, enacted into law in October 2000, grants us the authority to establish new senior-level scientific and technical positions; offer targeted voluntary early-outs and buy-outs; and carry out reductions in force to downsize, realign, or correct skills imbalances within our agency. We have issued implementing regulations for early-outs and the scientific and technical positions and plan to issue buy-out and reductions-in-force authorizing regulations later this year.
Other accomplishments within the human capital area include:
Completion of a first-ever electronic knowledge and skills assessment and inventory that is being used to help identify skill gaps and succession planning needs within the agency. In addition, staff completed an employee preference survey that is being used along with the results of the knowledge and skills inventory to meet our
institutional work needs while accommodating staff preferences for engagements to the extent possible.
Significant recruiting and college relations efforts on the nation's campuses. Aggressive efforts are underway to attract, recruit, and hire high-caliber staff with the skills and abilities needed to assist GAO in achieving our strategic goals and
• Revised performance standards for all staff that incorporate GAO's core values and
Enhanced internal communications that remain a vital tool for change management throughout the agency. Throughout fiscal year 2000, I conducted a number of telecasts to all agency staff to discuss GAO's strategic plan and congressional protocols, client service, employee survey results, initiatives to enhance the agency's human capital programs and legislative proposals, work processes, organizational alignment, information technology, and other areas of interest to the staff. Also, to engage our employees more fully in improving the agency's performance, we established the Comptroller General's Employee Advisory Council to discuss current and emerging issues of mutual interest and concern and implemented an employee suggestion program that received more than 800 submissions in its first year of operation.
We also made significant gains in strengthening and improving our operations and processes in fiscal year 2000. We implemented two new management strategies: risk management and matrix management. GAO's risk management approach allows management to identify and involve key stakeholders throughout an engagement to transcend traditional organizational boundaries to maximize institutional value and minimize related risks. GAO's matrix management approach maximizes our value to the Congress by leveraging the knowledge, skills, and experience of all employees to ensure the highest quality products and services and to help the Congress address the challenging, complex, multidimensional problems facing the nation.
Throughout fiscal year 2000, we also continued to improve our use of information technology as a tool for productivity and knowledge management. To provide our teams of analysts with a mechanism for simplifying and standardizing their work, we launched the Electronic Assistance Guide for Leading Engagements--the EAGLE, which is a prototype of a comprehensive Webbased guide to conducting GAO engagements. We also continued to enhance the capabilities of our computer network and successfully made our systems Y2K compliant. In addition, we began a number of projects on enabling technologies, including software upgrades, the deployment of notebook computers, and improved remote access to allow teams to work more efficiently in the
Among other things, by acting on our recommendations, the government improved public health and safety, strengthened national security, better protected consumers, and improved its financial management and information systems. We also contributed critical information to public debates on Social Security and Medicare reform and called attention to looming problems, such as the security of government computer systems and the knowledge and skills needed in the federal workforce in coming years. Other indicators of our performance, such as the number of testimonies our senior executives provided and recommendations implemented, exceeded that of most recent years. I also am pleased to report that we made significant progress toward addressing many of the organizational, human capital, and information technology challenges that I outlined for you at last year's hearing. We had a very busy and productive year.
Taxpayers Benefit from $23 Billion in Financial Savings
In fiscal year 2000, GAO helped achieve about $23.2 billion in direct financial benefits for the American taxpayer. These benefits are a result of the Congress or federal departments and agencies implementing our recommendations to make government services more efficient, improve the budgeting and spending of tax dollars, and strengthen the management of federal resources. The estimated financial benefits include budget reductions, costs avoided, resources reallocated, and revenue enhancements. These results exceeded our target of $22 billion and were greater than that of the previous three fiscal years, as illustrated in the following graphic.
Some examples of GAO's work that contributed to these financial savings include the following.
Helping to Prevent Fraud and Abuse in Medicare: GAO had long advocated increased funding specifically for activities to prevent fraud and abuse in the Medicare program. In 1996, the Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act,