Whether mandated by law or simply to address topics of interest, numerous audits are performed each year both internally by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and externally by other agencies or organizations. Internal DOE audits are typically carried out by the Office of Inspection General (OIG) while external ones are done by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) or independent auditing organizations. Regardless of who conducts the audits, the Office of Program Management and Evaluation (PME) within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) works closely as an audit liaison to provide follow-up and resolution support.
As part of this effort, PME requested a Root Cause Analysis of the major audit findings related to DOE programs including both Recovery Act-sponsored programs and those funded using annual appropriations. In effect, the Root Cause Analysis helped to analyze common themes in all major audits of EERE programs. Its purpose was to determine what, if any, actions could be taken by EERE or the Recipient to prevent a reoccurrence of errors in the future. The study was designed to identify patterns of error, determine the underlying (root) cause of such errors, and develop EERE actions and procedures to strengthen Recipient performance.
This Root Cause Analysis identified 16 general findings concerning Program Execution, i.e. how the programs are carried out. These were findings noted in single audits or more comprehensive ones carried out by OIG. The issues ranged from problems with documentation, reporting, compliance, subcontractor monitoring, and financial management, among others. In addition to the general findings, recommendations were outlined for each issue. These recommendations included discussions of how Technical Project Officers could better assist Recipients and/or how monitoring plans could be adjusted to reduce Recipient problems.
On the latter point, there were a total of five different findings that had a common recommendation involving edits to the monitoring plan. These included lack of supervisory reviews, failure to reconcile records, lack of separation of duties, failure to include required financial or flow down language in contracts, and lack of a competitive procurement process. The solution to these findings was to modify the Desktop Checklist by providing additional guidance and examples related to financial systems and controls.
Other improvement measurements identified in the Root Cause Analysis included expanding Recipient training on contracts, finances, and execution; implementing training mandates and controls; and improving functional checklists for Recipients. The Root Cause Analysis carried out by PME helped to categorize the recommendations of all recent major audits, identify common sets of solutions, and adjust Recipient and EERE procedures to address the most prevalent issues.