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Key Studies and Activities - Annual Report 2010

Government Accountability Office Studies

The AO reviews and comments on GAO draft reports in coordination with Judicial Conference committees and the courts. In fiscal year 2010, the GAO conducted six studies involving the Judiciary, three of which were completed. Final reports were issued on the following topics:

At the end of fiscal year 2010, there were two active studies: Federal Protection Issues at Federal Courthouses and National Drug Control Budget. Three additional GAO studies were initiated in October 2010: Bankruptcy of Financial Companies, Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control Program, and Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims and Payments.

Guide to Judiciary Policy Updated and Redesigned

In spring 2010, the Administrative Office completed a year-long effort to update and redesign the Judiciary's primary policy document for federal court administration, the Guide to Judiciary Policy. New measures have been instituted to improve the new, 23-volume, 225-chapter publication's long-term maintenance, including appointment of both court and AO staff to a new Guide Editorial Board.

Audits and Program Reviews

The Administrative Office conducts financial audits, reviews, assessments, and evaluations to promote effectiveness, efficiency, and economy in both AO and court operations. The AO's Office of Audit carries out a comprehensive program of financial audits covering all court units, Judiciary funds, and financial systems. Court audits are conducted on a four-year cycle for most courts, and on a 30-month cycle for larger courts. In 2010, the Administrative Office issued final reports for 62 cyclical financial audits of the courts. It completed 68 other financial audits, including audits of Chapter 7 trustees, Criminal Justice Act grantees, and audits in response to a change of clerk and to follow up on prior reviews.

As a result of Section 603 of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, required audits of randomly selected debtors began in 2007 to determine the accuracy, veracity, and completeness of the information contained in the petitions, schedules, and statements filed by individual Chapter 7 and 13 debtors; 273 debtor audits were conducted in 2010. In fiscal year 2010, the Judiciary received positive unqualified opinions on its fiscal year 2009 financial statements for its four principal appropriation accounts, as well as on the four Judiciary Retirement Trust Funds.

Each year, on-site management assistance and program reviews of various kinds are conducted in court units and federal defender organizations. Reviews may address administrative functions such as budget management, jury administration, court reporting, program operations, human resources administration, property management, procurement, information technology operations, security, succession planning, and continuity of operations plans and disaster preparedness. Review procedures generally include observations of office operations, interviews with key staff, and the evaluation of records and files. During fiscal year 2010, on-site reviews were conducted in two appellate courts, nine district courts, three bankruptcy courts, 14 federal defender organizations, and 20 probation/pretrial services offices.

During FY 2010, the AO started a collaborative and comprehensive assessment of its review programs. The study will evaluate the scope, objectives, and benefits of each review program and will identify opportunities for improvement. This assessment supports the AO's strategic goal of providing increased support for management reviews, and making them more proactive and service-oriented.