The DoT OIG Dashboard is not a Smart APP

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DoT OIG Dashboard

What’s Its Purpose?

The US DOT Office of inspector General was created on October 12, 1978, by the Inspector General (IG) Act, which in relevant part, states:

In order to create independent and objective units—

(1) to conduct and supervise audits and investigations relating to the programs and operations of the establishments listed in section 12(2);

(2) to provide leadership and coordination and recommend policies for activities designed

(A) to promote economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of, and

(B) to prevent and detect fraud and abuse in, such programs and operations; and

 (3) to provide a means for keeping the head of the establishment and the Congress fully and currently informed about problems and deficiencies relating to the administration of such programs and operations and the necessity for and progress of corrective action;

Based on that statutory authorization, the OIG issued a Toolkit to the Presidential Transition team. However valuable that may/may not have been, the office has adequate time to issue a Recommendations Dashboard, which “provides more information than ever before about the current status of OIG recommendations, which we plan to update on a weekly basis.”

Given the statutory bases cited above, what is the Dashboard’s justification under the IG’s statute?

  1. “To conduct and supervise audits and investigations”— the Dashboard provides no additional information; 99% of its recommendations are public already. Under this test the Dashboard is superfluous.
  1. “Recommend policies”— again the recommendations are a matter of public record.
  1. “Promote economy, efficiency and effectiveness” & “prevent and detect fraud and abuse”— once more, already done.
  1. “Keeping the head” of DOT and “Congress fully and currently informed”— recommendations are sent directly to the Secretary and the relevant House/Senate committees.

So, a literal reading of the IG Act does not appear to be justified under these tests, might there be other justification for the addition of a Dashboard?

a.  To show that the OIG’s work is significant— since no new information is provided, the OIG might have shown its importance of its Dashboard by prioritizing its outstanding Recommendations. That demonstration of its expertise might have been some added value. If the OIG spent the time to assess each of the recommendations and then to make quantitative/qualitative judgments would have shown that the OIG is more than a critic, but is able to make comparisons.

dot oig dashboardb.  The Dashboard could serve as a comparative scoreboard— while the “agency filter” provides a number next to each agency, is it appropriate to equate the Amtrak’s 4 with MWAA’s 7 or OST’s 233 on a purely quantitative basis. The OIG knows numbers; should not there be some scale which normalizes those figures against the

number of agency employees,

• the scope of the agency’s jurisdiction,

• the nature of the agency’s mission and

• the age of the open recommendations,

… among a longer list of potential indicia. Without such comparative tools, the Dashboard is not a smart APP.

c.  Setting some levels of urgency— the DOT’s internal regulatory agenda assigns codes of red, yellow and green to the status of its open projects. The OIG would have demonstrated some insight by including such a gradation to its Recommendations. These designations might help the Secretary, each Administrator and Congress ordering their respective focuses.

The Dashboard does little more than further publicize its audits and investigations, all of which are subject to announcements when they were issued. This web-based scoreboard does not advance the OIG’s mission and appears to be a more of a monument of self-aggrandizement.

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