Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

Research Note: April 2009 GAO Report on Designated Federal Entities

The Government Accountability Office published this lengthy survey of “designated federal entities,” a term that include disparate entities from the Smithsonian Institution (21 USC 41), the National Archives and Records Administration (44 USC 2102), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (15 USC 789(d)).

The specific objectives of this report are to (1) describe and summarize the statutory structure of the governing bodies for each DFE organization and (2) describe the role of the IGs within the governance structure and relationship with management of their respective agencies (p. 2).

The report provides a brief description of the management or “governing body” structure of each of these entities, along with a list of the “accountability laws” (e.g., Freedom of Information Act, 5 USC 552) that each entity does or does not obey.

What is a DFE?  Answer:

DFEs are the entities listed in the Inspector General Act of 1978 (IG Act), as amended, which requires the head of each entity to establish an office of inspector general (IG) and appoint an IG (p. 1).

The IG Act may be found in 5 USC Appendix.

The term “designated federal entity” was added to federal law by a 1988 amendment to the IG Act (5 USC APPENDIX 8G(a)(2)).  The law does not clearly define the term; rather, it enumerates the entities that are to be labeled as “designated federal entities.”

Interestingly, in 5 USC Appendix 8G(a)(1) one finds the definition of the term “federal entity”:

the term “Federal entity” means any Government corporation (within the meaning of section 103(1) of title 5, United States Code), any Government controlled corporation (within the meaning of section 103(2) of such title), or any other entity in the executive branch of the Government, or any independent regulatory agency, but does not include [emphasis added]-
(A) an establishment (as defined under section 11(2) of this Act) or part of an establishment;
(B) a designated Federal entity (as defined under paragraph (2) of this subsection) or part of a designated Federal entity;
(C) the Executive Office of the President;
(D) the Central Intelligence Agency;
(E) the Government Accountability Office; or
(F) any entity in the judicial or legislative branches of the Government, including the Administrative Office of the United   States Courts and the Architect of the Capitol and any activities under the direction of the Architect of the Capitol….

It would appear, then, that a “designated federal entity” is not a “federal entity.”

Source: Government Accountability Office, Designated Federal Entities: Survey of Governance Practices and the Inspector General Role, GAO-09-270 (Washington: GAO, April 2009).

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