2.1 Draft Reports. The GAO normally issues draft reports to the Service for review and comment so that final reports may incorporate Service views. The Service will provide comments on draft GAO reports within 30 days of issuance. However, additional time for a response may be granted by GAO upon request.
A. Upon receipt of a GAO draft report, transmitted by the Assistant Secretary - Policy, Management and Budget, the Service will within established time frames prepare detailed comments, appropriately coordinated, expressing views on each finding and recommendation in the report. Care should be taken to ensure that comments are concise and fully responsive to the matters discussed, and in a format suitable for transmission without extensive editing. Although Service officials may be responsible for preparing the response to a GAO audit, they should bear in mind that it is a Departmental response and should be prepared in a manner consistent with Departmental policy.
B. Responses to draft reports are normally prepared for the signature of the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks. The response should contain a cover letter and an enclosure.
(1) The cover letter should be an overview or background position statement. Use of this section would be advisable when necessary to provide perspective or general background for the specific comments that follow. It is appropriate to use this section to reflect fundamental disagreement with major facts reported or conclusions drawn by the GAO, or pertinent comments on the overall thrust of the GAO report.
(2) The enclosure should be a full or paraphrased description of each GAO recommendation followed by the Service response. Several recommendations addressed by a single response should be grouped together. The response to each recommendation or group of recommendations shall clearly show one of the following:
(a) Concurrence and the action proposed including tentative dates to carry out the recommendation. This may include concurrences in the objective of the recommendation but may offer an alternate course of action to accomplish the objective. In such instances, the reason for the alternative should be shown. In either event, the response should be as specific as possible. Generalities and vague promises are to be avoided.
(b) Nonconcurrence and the specific reasons for such nonconcurrence.
(c) A deferral of a decision because more information is needed before a decision can be made. In this event, the response should state the type of additional information to be gathered and the date such information will be available and when a decision will be made. In the event of this type of response, it is important to attempt to gather the additional information during the interim period between response to the draft and final report so that responsive comments may be made in the final report. The enclosure should set forth disagreements, if necessary, with specific facts or conclusions in the report, provide updated and clarifying information, and point out other pertinent editorial changes needed. The purpose of this enclosure is to seek appropriate changes to the GAO report, in addition to those that may be made after studying the Service position on recommendations.
C. Comments prepared by the Service will be transmitted to the Assistant Secretary - Policy, Management and Budget who, in turn, will obtain Departmental clearance and transmit the reply to the Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks for signature.
D. In accordance with its internal operating procedures, GAO may determine to request oral comments on draft reports. If GAO requests oral comments on a draft report, the decision to respond will be made by an appropriate official consistent with the classification of the final product as described in 416 FW 1.6, Classification of GAO Reports. Official oral comments may be provided to GAO from Secretarial officers, alone, for GAO reports that will upon publication be classified as Code 1A, 1B, 1C, and 2. Officials providing oral comments to GAO should specifically request a copy of the draft report to confirm that GAO has represented official oral comments as stated. If GAO declines to provide a copy of the draft report, a memorandum of GAO's understanding regarding the accuracy of comments should be requested of GAO and followed by written confirmation of accuracy from the officer providing comments.
2.2 Final Reports. The Service must place a high priority on preparation of statements on final GAO reports. Extensions of time for such responses are not allowed.
(1) Upon receipt of a GAO final report in the Department, the Assistant Secretary - Policy, Management and Budget transmits the report to the Service via a memorandum of instruction which will include due dates for processing the response.
(2) The response to final GAO reports must concisely express the Service views on the findings and recommendations in the report. It must identify those actions taken or planned in response to each recommendation. In those cases where there is no substantial difference between the draft and final reports, and the Service views are accurately and adequately stated in the report, a statement reaffirming and updating those views will be sufficient as the official response to the final report.
(3) Generally, a senior secretarial officer will sign the Departmental response to final GAO reports.
B. Format and Content of Response to Final Reports.
(1) Comments on GAO reports should take the form of an enclosure to a cover letter which should briefly summarize Service views on the findings, suggestions, and recommendations in the report and specifically identify the report, by number and date of issue. The enclosure should state each GAO recommendation and then follow with the Service comment. Comments should be specific and detailed, reflect actions accomplished, and provide a precise agenda of actions remaining.
(2) The main difference between the response to the draft and final report will occur because of the time lapse--usually 3 to 6 months between the two reports. Actions promised in response to a draft report may have been somewhat vague and may have provided for these actions to occur at future dates. With the time for added study, decision, and action, the response to the final report should be more specific, reflect actions accomplished in the interim, and provide a precise agenda of actions remaining.
(3) For nonconcurrence responses to the draft report, the GAO will either have withdrawn the recommendation or probably provided further support for its position. If the GAO retains the recommendation, it should be restudied and a final decision made whether to accept and act on the recommendation or to continue to disagree. In either event, the response should clearly indicate the decision and provide the basis for any remaining nonconcurrence.
C. Recipients of the Service Response.
(1) Responses to published reports are transmitted according to guidance found in 361 DM 2, Follow-up to GAO Audit Reports. If the Service response to a draft GAO report accurately and adequately reflects its current views, a copy of the comments will be sufficient for transmittal to recipients. When remedial action is incomplete, still under study, or planned, the response will include a statement of when the Service expects action to be completed.
(2) Whenever a GAO report contains recommendations to the Service, the Service will:
(a) Not later than 60 days after the date of the report, submit a written statement to the Committee on Government Operations of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Governmental Affairs of the Senate on the action taken with respect to the recommendations.
(b) In connection with the first request for appropriations for the Service submitted to the Congress more than 60 days after the date of such report, submit a written statement to the Committees on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and the Senate on the action taken with regard to the recommendations.
(3) A copy of the Service response will be submitted to the Director, OMB within 60 calendar days after formal transmittal of a GAO report to the Department when at least one of the following applies:
(a) The report contains a specific recommendation for the Secretary.
(b) The report contains financial statements accompanied by either a qualified audit opinion or a disclaimer of opinion.
(c) The report indicates a violation of the Antideficiency Act which has not been reported to the appropriate authorities.
(d) The report indicates a violation of other laws.
(e) When requested to comment by OMB.
(4) Because Service comments on published reports must also be furnished to the GAO and OMB within 60 days of the report's issuance, whenever possible, the practice in the Department is to use copies of the response to the respective Committee Chairman to satisfy the submission requirements to OMB and the GAO.
D. Advance Clearance and/or Coordination Requirements. Service statements to Congressional committees, individual members of Congress, or to the GAO will be subject to advance coordination and/or clearance by OMB when the statement expresses views on proposed or pending legislation or when referring to other agencies, or to the executive branch budget policies. Requests for advance clearance and/or coordination will be prepared by the Service, coordinated through the Division of Policy and Directives Management, and forwarded to the Assistant Secretary - Policy, Management and Budget for signature. Clearance action will be completed prior to release of any statement.
2.3 Remedial Actions. The Service must consider and take appropriate action on the findings and recommendations addressed to the Service in GAO reports. The action should be initiated promptly on both draft and final report recommendations with which the Service agrees. The Assistant Secretary - Policy, Management and Budget will receive information from the Service on a semiannual basis and track progress made. Upon completion of the implementing action, the Service will notify the Assistant Secretary - Policy, Management and Budget who will, in turn, remove the action plan from the audit follow-up system.
2.4 Reporting. Service offices are to provide information to
the Audit Liaison Officer for the 6-month periods ending March 31 and September
30 for input to the Secretary's Report on Audit Follow-up (DOI-84-083).
This report information is forwarded to the Assistant Secretary for Fish
and Wildlife and Parks not later than April 15 and October 15, respectively.