GAO prods USDA on electronic filing

GAO prods USDA on electronic filing

BY Preeti Vasishtha

GCN Staff

APRIL 2—Although the Agriculture Department has partially met its Freedom to E-File Act deadlines, the agency faces formidable challenges to implement fully electronic filing, the General Accounting Office has reported.

The department has built a Web site where farmers and producers can access 52 Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service forms, GAO said in its report, USDA Electronic Filing: Progress Made, But Central Leadership and Comprehensive Implementation Plan Needed, released Friday.

But none of the more than 100 Rural Development forms that were to be included on the site by the Dec. 18, 2000, deadline is posted, GAO said.

The department also has not set aside resources needed to meet the Dec. 1 deadline for posting Risk Management Agency forms and the June 20, 2002, deadline for providing Web information for county-based agencies.

To ensure success, Agriculture should assign a senior-level official to handle its e-file activities, expedite work to obtain Office of Management and Budget approval of forms and develop a comprehensive implementation plan, GAO recommended.

In a written response to the report, USDA officials acknowledged that they still had much work to do to meet the upcoming deadlines and would be following up on GAO's recommendations.

To see the report, visit www.gao.gov.



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