GAO makes new recommendations related to pandemic response

The U.S. Government Accountability Office is making some new recommendations related to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the vaccine rollout has not met expectations.

The office has continued to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the pandemic. Its latest report examines the federal government’s continued efforts to respond to and recover from the pandemic.

The GAO suggests that the Department of Health and Human Services develop and make publicly available a comprehensive national COVID-19 testing strategy that incorporates all six characteristics of an effective national strategy. The characteristics include a clear purpose, risk assessment and coordination.

“Such a strategy could build upon existing strategy documents that HHS has produced for the public and Congress to allow for a more coordinated pandemic testing approach,” the GAO wrote in its latest report.

The HHS should also create an expert committee that includes knowledgeable health care professionals from the public and private sectors, academia, and nonprofits or use an existing one to systematically review and inform the alignment of ongoing data collection and reporting standards for key health indicators.

In addition, the GAO reaffirmed the importance of the HHS, with the support of the Department of Defense, establish a time frame for documenting and sharing a national plan for distributing and administering the COVID-19 vaccine, and among other things, outline an approach for how efforts would be coordinated across federal agencies and nonfederal entities. The GAO initially made the recommendation in September but said that to date, it hasn’t been fully implemented.

The office also recommends that the Food and Drug Administration ensure drug manufacturing data obtained is complete and accessible. It says this can be done by working with manufacturers and other federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs and, if necessary, seek authority to obtain complete and accessible information.

GAO says the Small Business Administration should develop and implement portfolio-level data analytics across Economic Injury Disaster loans and advances made in response to COVID-19 as a way to detect potentially ineligible and fraudulent applications.

The GAO has now made 44 recommendations since June, which includes its 13 new recommendations. As of January, 27 of the agency’s 31 previous recommendations remained unimplemented.