Appropriators less dissatisfied with HUD budget justifications

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After years of budget justifications that congressional staff have deemed inadequate, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has begun to improve its explanations, the Government Accountability Office says.

Appropriations subcommittee staff, the main users of the budget justifications that agencies submit annually to Congress, have said that HUD's justifications from fiscal 2008 to 2012 tended to rely on data tables to document their requests without narrative explanations, GAO says in a report (.pdf) released March 15.

HUD officials told auditors that they used data tables because "prior submissions with more detail did not prompt questions from Congress," the report says.

For fiscal 2012, Congress directed HUD to include detailed justifications for proposed workforce changes by program, project or activity. It also called for more details about salaries, travel and other expenses and told HUD to improve its resource management system.

Auditors say there are significant flaws in that system, which HUD uses to define workloads and estimate resources. HUD's program offices use it selectively, entering information inconsistently, and officials often don't use the system to inform their decisions, the report says.

HUD's fiscal 2013 budget justification was more detailed, the report says, and congressional staff have reported a general improvement. Some have continued to question the information's uniformity and reliability though. "As a result, these users do not feel that they have adequate, consistent information from HUD that justifies the budget request," the report says.

HUD agreed with GAO's recommendation that it consult with Congress to improve how its writes its budget justifications.

For more:
- download the report, GAO-13-282 (.pdf)

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