H. Rept. 113-36 - 113th Congress (2013-2014)
April 12, 2013, As Reported by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee

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House Report 113-36 - GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE IMPROVEMENT ACT




[House Report 113-36]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]


113th Congress                                                   Report
                        HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
 1st Session                                                     113-36

======================================================================



 
            GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE IMPROVEMENT ACT

                                _______
                                

 April 12, 2013.--Committed to the Committee of the Whole House on the 
              State of the Union and ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

   Mr. Issa, from the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, 
                        submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                        [To accompany H.R. 1162]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to whom 
was referred the bill (H.R. 1162) to amend title 31, United 
States Code, to make improvements in the Government 
Accountability Office, having considered the same, report 
favorably thereon without amendment and recommend that the bill 
do pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
Committee Statement and Views....................................     2
Section-by-Section...............................................     3
Explanation of Amendments........................................     4
Committee Consideration..........................................     4
Correspondence...................................................     4
Application of Law to the Legislative Branch.....................     5
Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the 
  Committee......................................................     5
Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives............     5
Duplication of Federal Programs..................................     5
Disclosure of Directed Rule Makings..............................     6
Federal Advisory Committee Act...................................     6
Unfunded Mandate Statement.......................................     6
Earmark Identification...........................................     6
Committee Estimate...............................................     6
Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate...     6
Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported............     7

                     Committee Statement and Views


                          PURPOSE AND SUMMARY

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a legislative 
branch agency that examines how the federal government spends 
taxpayer dollars and investigates waste, fraud and abuse in 
federal programs. H.R. 1162 intends to increase the 
effectiveness of GAO by removing restrictions to necessary 
information when performing audits and investigations for the 
legislative branch.
    The bill: strengthens GAO's ability to obtain information 
from the Executive Branch including pursuing civil action to 
obtain agency records; expands GAO's ability to obtain sworn 
testimony; expands access to specific categories of records 
that have been denied to GAO previously; requires GAO to 
prescribe policies to protect proprietary or trade secret 
information from public disclosure; and requires agency heads 
to send GAO report responses to all oversight Committees of 
jurisdiction.

                  BACKGROUND AND NEED FOR LEGISLATION

    GAO's mission is ``to support the Congress in meeting its 
constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the 
performance and ensure accountability of the federal government 
for the benefit of the American people.''\1\ GAO provides 
valuable audits and analyses regarding government programs and 
activities on a range of topics at the request of congressional 
Committees and subcommittees. Congress must have current and 
complete information regarding federal program performance in 
order to both legislate effectively and to conduct meaningful 
oversight.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\U.S. Government Accountability Office, About GAO available at 
http://gao.gov/about/index.html.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Each federal agency is required to provide information to 
the Comptroller General about the duties, powers, activities, 
organization and financial transactions of the agency.\2\ The 
provisions in H.R. 1162 are designed to allow the Government 
Accountability Office to accomplish its mission more 
effectively by allowing it access to essential information. 
This bill will ensure GAO has the ability to obtain agency 
records, and to administer oaths to witnesses when auditing 
accounts and investigating fraud. It will allow the Comptroller 
General to seek a judicial remedy to enforce GAO's right to 
information under the law.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \2\31 U.S.C. section 716(a).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    GAO has systematically been denied access to specific 
government data, which impedes its ability to examine program 
effectiveness and investigate fraud and abuse. Several federal 
agencies have asserted that the failure of its authorizing 
statutes to include GAO as an approved recipient of documents 
is an implicit exemption from GAO's broad authorization to 
obtain agency material. This bill will enhance GAO's ability to 
serve Congress and the American public by ensuring the agency 
has access to key data that it had previously been denied. This 
bill makes explicit in statute that GAO shall not be denied 
access to key data it needs to perform its work, such as data 
in the National Directory of New Hires, which is used to verify 
eligibility for federal programs, to detect or prevent fraud, 
and to identify improper payments. H.R. 1162 also makes 
explicit that GAO shall not be denied access to Hart-Scott-
Rodino pre-merger notification information, and information 
submitted pursuant to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
    The statute governing GAO mandates the Comptroller General 
maintain the same level of confidentiality of information as is 
required by the head of the agency from which it is obtained. 
Additionally, the same penalties for unauthorized disclosure 
extend to GAO as is prescribed in statute for other users. This 
bill does not waive or supersede these requirements or any 
penalties for misuse. GAO has an exemplary record of protecting 
sensitive government information, including national security 
documents and tax return information. The legislation provides 
that GAO will rigorously maintain confidentiality regarding 
information obtained as a result of these provisions.

                          LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

    Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Issa and 
Ranking Member Cummings introduced H.R. 1162 on March 14, 2013. 
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and 
Government Reform. The Committee considered H.R. 1162 on March 
20, 2013, and by voice vote ordered the bill favorably 
reported. No amendments were offered.
    During the 112th Congress, the language in this bill was 
included in the version of the DATA Act (H.R. 2146) that was 
approved in a unanimous voice vote by the full House.

                           Section-by-Section


Section 1: Short title.

    The short title of the bill is the ``Government 
Accountability Office Improvement Act.''

Section 2: Government Accountability Office Improvement.

    Authority to Obtain Information: Section 2(a) reaffirms 
that Congress has authorized GAO to pursue civil actions if 
federal agencies withhold records from GAO. This section also 
authorizes the Comptroller General to make and retain copies of 
agency records.
    Administering Oaths: Section 2(b) authorizes the 
Comptroller General to administer oaths for specific types of 
GAO investigations, including fraud investigations, attempts to 
defraud the United States, or misconduct by federal employees.
    Access to Certain Information: Section 2(c) adds a new 
section to title 31 U.S.C. section 721, which makes clear that 
the Social Security Act, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic 
Act, and the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act do not limit GAO's right to 
access information.
    The new section 721(a) confirms GAO's existing authority to 
review information at the Department of Health and Human 
Services, including the National Directory of New Hires.
    The new section 721(b) confirms GAO's existing authority to 
review trade secret information held by the Food and Drug 
Administration.
    The new section 721(c) confirms that GAO has the authority 
to access pre-merger filing information with the Federal Trade 
Commission and the Department of Justice.
    The new section 721(d) requires GAO to prescribe policies 
and procedures necessary to protect proprietary or trade secret 
information from public disclosure. This section states that it 
does not modify 18 U.S.C. section 1905, which prohibits 
disclosure of trade secret or other sensitive information, or 
affect the applicability of section 716(e) including the 
protections against unauthorized disclosure contained therein.
    The new section 721(e) confirms that specific references to 
statutes in this bill should not be construed to affect access 
by GAO to other information that is not referenced.
    Agency Reports: This section amends 31 U.S.C. section 
720(b) allowing agencies to report on both actions taken and 
planned actions in response to GAO recommendations. This 
section expands the list of recipients of an agency report to 
include GAO and the Congressional Committees of jurisdiction 
over the agency program or activity that is the subject of the 
recommendation.

                       Explanation of Amendments

    No amendments were offered to H.R. 1162.

                        Committee Consideration

    On March 20, 2013, the Committee met in open session and 
ordered reported favorably the bill, H.R. 1162, by voice vote, 
a quorum being present.

                             Correspondence

                                                    April 10, 2013.
Hon. Bob Goodlatte,
Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives, 
        Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: Thank you for your letter regarding the 
Committee on the Judiciary's jurisdictional interest in H.R. 
1162, the ``Government Accountability Office Improvements 
Act,'' and your willingness to forego consideration of H.R. 
1162 by your committee.
    I agree that the Judiciary Committee has a valid 
jurisdictional interest in certain provisions of H.R. 1162 and 
that the Committee's jurisdiction will not be adversely 
affected by your decision to forego consideration of H.R. 1162. 
As you have requested, I will support your request for an 
appropriate appointment of outside conferees from your 
Committee in the event of a House-Senate conference on this or 
similar legislation, should such a conference be convened.
    Finally, I will include a copy of your letter and this 
response in the Committee Report and in the Congressional 
Record during the floor consideration of this bill. Thank you 
again for your cooperation.
            Sincerely,
                                              Darrell Issa,
                                                          Chairman.
                                ------                                

                                                     April 8, 2013.
Hon. Darrell Issa,
Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rayburn House 
        Office Building, Washington, DC.
    Dear Chairman Issa, I am writing concerning H.R. 1162, the 
``Government Accountability Office Improvements Act,'' which 
your Committee reported on March 20, 2013.
    H.R. 1162 contains provisions within the Committee on the 
Judiciary's rule X jurisdiction. As a result of your having 
consulted with the Committee and making requested changes to 
the provisions in question, and in order to expedite this bill 
for floor consideration, the Committee on the Judiciary will 
forego action on the bill. This is being done on the basis of 
our mutual understanding that doing so will in no way diminish 
or alter the jurisdiction of the Committee on the Judiciary 
with respect to the appointment of conferees, or to any future 
jurisdictional claim over the subject matters contained in the 
bill or similar legislation.
    I would appreciate your response to this letter confirming 
this understanding, and would request that you include a copy 
of this letter and your response in the Committee Report and in 
the Congressional Record during the floor consideration of this 
bill. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.
            Sincerely,
                                             Bob Goodlatte,
                                                          Chairman.

              Application of Law to the Legislative Branch

    Section 102(b)(3) of Public Law 104-1 requires a 
description of the application of this bill to the legislative 
branch where the bill relates to the terms and conditions of 
employment or access to public services and accommodations. 
This bill increases the effectiveness of GAO by removing 
restrictions to necessary information when performing audits 
and investigations for the legislative branch. As such this 
bill does not relate to employment or access to public services 
and accommodations.

  Statement of Oversight Findings and Recommendations of the Committee

    In compliance with clause 3(c)(1) of rule XIII and clause 
(2)(b)(1) of rule X of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives, the Committee's oversight findings and 
recommendations are reflected in the descriptive portions of 
this report.

         Statement of General Performance Goals and Objectives

    In accordance with clause 3(c)(4) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives, the Committee's performance 
goals and objectives are reflected in the descriptive portions 
of this report.

                    Duplication of Federal Programs

    No provision of H.R. 1162 establishes or reauthorizes a 
program of the Federal Government known to be duplicative of 
another Federal program, a program that was included in any 
report from the Government Accountability Office to Congress 
pursuant to section 21 of Public Law 111-139, or a program 
related to a program identified in the most recent Catalog of 
Federal Domestic Assistance.

                  Disclosure of Directed Rule Makings

    This legislation directs the Comptroller General to 
prescribe policies and procedures that are necessary to protect 
from public disclosure proprietary or trade secret information 
obtained from this legislation.

                     Federal Advisory Committee Act

    The Committee finds that the legislation does not establish 
or authorize the establishment of an advisory committee within 
the definition of 5 U.S.C. App., Section 5(b).

                       Unfunded Mandate Statement

    Section 423 of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment 
Control Act (as amended by Section 101(a)(2) of the Unfunded 
Mandate Reform Act, P.L. 104-4) requires a statement as to 
whether the provisions of the reported include unfunded 
mandates. In compliance with this requirement the Committee has 
received a letter from the Congressional Budget Office included 
herein.

                         Earmark Identification

    H.R. 1162 does not include any congressional earmarks, 
limited tax benefits, or limited tariff benefits as defined in 
clause 9 of rule XXI.

                           Committee Estimate

    Clause 3(d)(2) of rule XIII of the Rules of the House of 
Representatives requires an estimate and a comparison by the 
Committee of the costs that would be incurred in carrying out 
H.R. 1162. However, clause 3(d)(3)(B) of that rule provides 
that this requirement does not apply when the Committee has 
included in its report a timely submitted cost estimate of the 
bill prepared by the Director of the Congressional Budget 
Office under section 402 of the Congressional Budget Act.

     Budget Authority and Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate

    With respect to the requirements of clause 3(c)(2) of rule 
XIII of the Rules of the House of Representatives and section 
308(a) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and with respect 
to requirements of clause (3)(c)(3) of rule XIII of the Rules 
of the House of Representatives and section 402 of the 
Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the Committee has received 
the following cost estimate for H.R. 1162 from the Director of 
Congressional Budget Office:

                                                     April 1, 2013.
Hon. Darrell Issa,
Chairman, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of 
        Representatives, Washington, DC.
    Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has 
prepared the enclosed cost estimate for H.R. 1162, the 
Government Accountability Office Improvement Act.
    If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be 
pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is Matthew 
Pickford.
            Sincerely,
                                      Douglas W. Elmendorf,
                                                          Director.
    Enclosure.

H.R. 1162--Government Accountability Office Improvement Act

    H.R. 1162 would provide additional authorities to the 
Government Accountability Office (GAO), including the ability 
to obtain certain records and information, and to administer 
oaths. The legislation also would require GAO to establish 
procedures to protect certain proprietary information that it 
collects when carrying out its responsibilities.
    CBO estimates that implementing the legislation would have 
no significant impact on the federal budget because it would 
not significantly add to GAO's administrative costs. Enacting 
the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; 
therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.
    H.R. 1162 would impose an intergovernmental mandate as 
defined in the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA) by requiring 
the District of Columbia to report information to Congressional 
committees and GAO. CBO estimates that the cost to comply with 
the mandate would be minimal and would not exceed the threshold 
established in UMRA for intergovernmental mandates ($75 million 
in 2013, adjusted annually for inflation).
    H.R. 1162 contains no private-sector mandates as defined in 
UMRA.
    The CBO staff contacts for this estimate are Matthew 
Pickford (for federal costs) and Elizabeth Cove Delisle (for 
the impact on state and local governments). The estimate was 
approved by Theresa Gullo, Deputy Assistant Director for Budget 
Analysis.

         Changes in Existing Law Made by the Bill, as Reported

    In compliance with clause 3(e) of rule XIII of the Rules of 
the House of Representatives, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, existing law in which no change is 
proposed is shown in roman):

TITLE 31, UNITED STATES CODE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *



SUBTITLE I--GENERAL

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


              CHAPTER 7--GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE


           SUBCHAPTER I--DEFINITIONS AND GENERAL ORGANIZATION

Sec.
701. Definitions.
     * * * * * * *

                SUBCHAPTER II--GENERAL DUTIES AND POWERS

     * * * * * * *
721. Access to certain information.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                SUBCHAPTER II--GENERAL DUTIES AND POWERS


Sec. 711. General authority

        The Comptroller General may--
          (1) * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

          [(4) administer oaths to witnesses when auditing and 
        settling accounts.]
          (4) administer oaths to witnesses when auditing and 
        settling accounts and, with the prior express approval 
        of the Comptroller General, when investigating fraud or 
        attempts to defraud the United States, or irregularity 
        or misconduct of an employee or agent of the United 
        States.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 716. Availability of information and inspection of records

  (a)(1) The Comptroller General is authorized to obtain such 
agency records as the Comptroller General requires to discharge 
his duties (including audit, evaluation, and investigative 
duties), including through the bringing of civil actions under 
this section. In reviewing a civil action under this section, 
the court shall recognize the continuing force and effect of 
the authorization in the preceding sentence until such time as 
the authorization is repealed pursuant to law.
  [(a)] (2) Each agency shall give the Comptroller General 
information the Comptroller General requires about the duties, 
powers, activities, organization, and financial transactions of 
the agency. The Comptroller General may [inspect an agency 
record] inspect, and make and retain copies of, an agency 
record to get the information. This subsection does not apply 
to expenditures made under section 3524 or 3526(e) of this 
title.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 720. Agency reports

  (a) * * *
  (b) When the Comptroller General makes a report that includes 
a recommendation to the head of an agency, the head of the 
agency shall submit a written statement on action taken or 
planned on the recommendation by the head of the agency. The 
statement shall be submitted to--
          [(1) the Committee on Governmental Affairs of the 
        Senate and the Committee on Government Operations of 
        the House of Representatives before the 61st day after 
        the date of the report; and]
          (1) the Committee on Homeland Security and 
        Governmental Affairs of the Senate, the Committee on 
        Oversight and Government Reform of the House of 
        Representatives, the congressional committees with 
        jurisdiction over the agency program or activity that 
        is the subject of the recommendation, and the 
        Government Accountability Office before the 61st day 
        after the date of the report; and

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


Sec. 721. Access to certain information

  (a) No provision of the Social Security Act, including 
section 453(l) of that Act (42 U.S.C. 653(l)), shall be 
construed to limit, amend, or supersede the authority of the 
Comptroller General to obtain any information or to inspect or 
copy any record under section 716 of this title.
  (b) No provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 
including section 301(j) of that Act (21 U.S.C. 331(j)), shall 
be construed to limit, amend, or supersede the authority of the 
Comptroller General to obtain any information or to inspect or 
copy any record under section 716 of this title.
  (c) No provision of the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust 
Improvements Act of 1976 (Public Law 94-435) and the amendments 
made by that Act shall be construed to limit, amend, or 
supersede the authority of the Comptroller General to obtain 
any information or to inspect or copy any record under section 
716 of this title, including with respect to any information 
disclosed to the Assistant Attorney General of the Antitrust 
Division of the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade 
Commission for purposes of pre-merger review under section 7A 
of the Clayton Act (15 U.S.C. 18a).
  (d)(1) The Comptroller General shall prescribe such policies 
and procedures as are necessary to protect from public 
disclosure proprietary or trade secret information obtained 
consistent with this section.
  (2) Nothing in this section shall be construed to--
          (A) alter or amend the prohibitions against the 
        disclosure of trade secret or other sensitive 
        information prohibited by section 1905 of title 18 and 
        other applicable laws; or
          (B) affect the applicability of section 716(e) of 
        this title, including the protections against 
        unauthorized disclosure contained in that section, to 
        information obtained consistent with this section.
  (e) Specific references to statutes in this section shall not 
be construed to affect access by the Government Accountability 
Office to information under statutes that are not so 
referenced.

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *