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January 29, 2021

Health Law Weekly

GAO Urges Government to Implement Recommendations on COVID-19 Response

  • January 29, 2021

The federal government should take “swift action” to implement the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO’s) recommendations to agencies to improve the ongoing federal response to COVID-19 in the areas of public health, the economy, and program integrity, GAO said in a report posted January 28.

The 346-page report makes 13 recommendations that “are tailored to specific federal programs and initiatives, and, if implemented, will strengthen the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” of federal efforts, GAO said.

As the new Congress and administration establish their policies and priorities for the federal government’s COVID-19 response, GAO urged the government to also look at the 27 remaining unimplemented recommendations of the 31 that GAO previously issued.

GAO said it “remains deeply troubled that agencies have not acted on” its recommendations to more fully address critical gaps in the medical supply chain. In addition, slow implementation of GAO’s recommendations relating to program integrity, in particular those made to the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Department of Labor, “creates risk of considerable improper payments, including those related to fraud, and falls far short of transparency and accountability expectations,” GAO said.

GAO’s recommendations include:

  • The Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should, as the agency makes changes to its collection of drug manufacturing data, ensure the information obtained is complete and accessible to help it identify and mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities, including by working with manufacturers and other federal agencies and, if necessary, seek authority to obtain complete and accessible information;

 

  • The Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should develop and make publicly available a comprehensive national COVID-19 testing strategy that incorporates all six characteristics of an effective national strategy;

 

  • To improve the federal government’s response to COVID-19 and preparedness for future pandemics, the HHS Secretary should immediately establish an expert committee or use an existing one to systematically review and inform the alignment of ongoing data collection and reporting standards for key health indicators.

 

  • The Administrator of the SBA should develop and implement portfolio-level data analytics across Economic Injury Disaster Loan program loans and advances made in response to COVID-19 as a means to detect potentially ineligible and fraudulent applications.

The report also includes 26 enclosures about a range of federal programs and activities across the government, including the status of health care and economic indicators that could help monitor the nation’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the report, Critical Vaccine Distribution, Supply Chain, Program Integrity, and Other Challenges Require Focused Federal Attention (GAO-21-265).