GAO: Some agencies hit harder than others during sequestration

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

One year after of the sequestration measure that furloughed more than 850,000 employees for 16 days, a new study found that the budgetary hiccup may have hit some agencies harder than others.

The findings are part of a new Government Accountability Office report that detailed the 2013 shutdown’s impact on three agencies — the departments of Energy, Health and Human Services and Transportation.

“We have previously reported that funding gaps, actual or threatened, are both disruptive and costly,” GAO wrote in its opening letter to Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the Committee on the Budget’s Government Performance Task Force.

Due to employee furloughs, work disruptions and delays in payment, the GAO found that grants and contract activity slowed to a crawl for most agencies.

Within HHS, grants management at the National Institutes of Health “effectively ceased with employee furloughs,” GAO wrote. While current grant recipients were able to draw down funds, NIH had to reschedule the grant review process for more than 13,700 applicants

GAO also concluded that DOT’s Federal Transit Administration stopped functioning after its grant management officials were on furlough. As a result, FTA officials told GAO that no new grants were processed because of the shutdown.

Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, GAO said, continued contract activities throughout the shutdown because of its multi-year funding. However, more than 1,700 contractor employees were laid off or forced to use leave because EM issued stop work orders. As a result, department officials told GAO that some programs took as much as four months to return to pre-shutdown functionality.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the 2013 shutdown forced agencies to furlough workers for a total of 6.6 million work days. Overall, OMB estimates that furloughed employees were paid $2 billion retroactively. This financial lapse, however, falls short of the longest government shutdown, which started on Dec. 16, 1995, and lasted until Jan. 6, 1996.


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