Government Accountability Office finds hurdles remain in pandemic response

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has made 13 new recommendations as part of its fifth comprehensive report on the implementation of the CARES Act and other pandemic relief efforts.

According to a news release, the report also addresses the status of 27 of the office’s previous 31 COVID-19 coronavirus recommendations which have not yet been implemented, including: vaccine distribution and communications plans, medical supply chains, and workplace safety.

“Implementing GAO’s recommendations will be critical to improving the federal government’s ability to effectively respond to this pandemic,” said Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general of the U.S. and head of the GAO, says in the release. “This report is a snapshot of where things stood as of January 15, the date we had to complete our audit work in order to meet GAO’s statutory bimonthly reporting deadline. We are monitoring the new Administration’s executive orders and actions, including the release of proposed national strategy documents, and these efforts appear to target many of the concerns we raise in this and previous reports. We will evaluate these actions moving forward and continue to monitor any further steps taken by the new administration and Congress.”

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Vaccine rollout: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD) should establish a timeframe for documenting and sharing a national plan for distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccines and outline an approach for how efforts would be coordinated across federal and non-federal agencies.
  • Testing: HHS should develop and publicly release a national comprehensive testing strategy which incorporates the six characteristics of effective national strategies identified in prior strategic planning work.
  • Data Collection: HHS should establish an expert committee of professionals focused on establishing a process to systematically define and ensure the collection of standardized data across federal agencies and related stakeholders to assist in the response to COVID-19 and any future pandemics.