NEWS NOTES ON SUSTAINABLE WATER RESOURCESGAO Recommendations for Interior Department


GAO Recommendations for Interior Department

“Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to the recommendations where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations.”

“This report outlines our 10 priority open recommendations for the Department of the Interior as of April 2020.”

“The 10 priority recommendations fall into the following five areas.”

“Improve Oversight of Offshore Oil and Gas Activities. As discussed below, management of federal oil and gas resources is one of the highest risks facing the government. Offshore oil and gas production, while an important energy source, poses risks to the environment and human safety. We have four priority recommendations to improve oversight in this area.”

“Take Action to Ensure Safety and Health at BIE School Facilities. Our March 2016 report contains one open priority recommendation that, if implemented, would improve safety and health conditions at BIE school facilities across the country. We recommended that Interior develop a plan to build schools’ capacity to promptly address safety and health problems with facilities. In 2018, the agency updated its agreement between the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and BIE, detailing the roles and responsibilities of each for inspecting and providing technical assistance to BIE schools. However, BIA documentation provided little information on how it planned to support school personnel in fixing safety hazards in their facilities. As of February 2020, agency officials said that they had not taken further action and no office or official was currently responsible for implementing the recommendation. This issue still needs to be addressed. To fully implement this recommendation, Interior needs to develop a plan that addresses key challenges schools face in addressing safety hazards.”

“Improve BIA’s Management of Energy Development on Indian Lands. The development of Indian energy resources has the potential to provide significant benefits to Indian tribes and their members by providing tribes with economic development opportunities and increasing access to reliable energy. BIA review and approval is generally required during the development process for documents such as easements, rights-of-way agreements, and valuations, yet the length of review and response times has hindered development opportunities. We have two priority recommendations in this area.”

“Reduce Factors That Hinder Tribal Administration of Federal Programs. Various factors can affect tribes’ use of self-determination contracts and self-governance compacts to transfer the administration of federal programs to the tribe. Our January 2019 report recommended that BIA develop a process so that all regional and agency offices consistently provide tribes with documentation on calculations and methodologies to identify resources available to administer a program using a self-determination contract. As of January 2020, no action had been taken to address this recommendation. To fully implement this recommendation, BIA needs to develop updated procedures to respond to tribal inquiries regarding available resources.”

“Improve Cybersecurity. Given the increasing number and sophistication of cyber threats facing federal agencies, it is critical that agencies be well positioned to make consistent, informed, risk-based decisions in protecting their systems and information against these threats. The inconsistent establishment of cybersecurity risk management practices can be partially attributed to challenges agencies identify in establishing and implementing their cybersecurity risk management programs. In July 2019, we reported that Interior has not fully established an enterprise risk management governance structure or approach to coordinate with cybersecurity risk management. We recommended that Interior develop a cybersecurity risk management strategy and establish and document a process for coordination between cybersecurity risk management and enterprise risk management functions. To fully implement these recommendations, Interior needs to develop a cybersecurity risk management strategy and process for bi-directional communication and status reporting between cybersecurity and enterprise risk management teams.”