GAO: Library Fund Needs Better Record Keeping

Posted January 31, 2003 at 4:28pm

A Library of Congress fund used for special events is plagued by inconsistencies in its record-keeping and accounting methods, according to a General Accounting Office report released last week.

The review focused on the Library’s special events gift fund, which finances staff in the Office of Special Events and Public Programs and is used to pay for affairs hosted at the Library.

Contributions to the fund are made by organizations that host events in the Library’s facilities, such as the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building. For use of the hall, the Library charges $50,000 and $15,000 for for-profit organizations and nonprofits, respectively, in addition to costs such as entertainment or food and drink.

“Many of our recommendations are directed toward record keeping,” said Jeanette Franzel, GAO’s director of financial management and assurance. “We also found areas where they could strengthen accountability controls” such as properly filing and tracking receipts within the accounting system.

According to the report, GAO officials examined files documenting 93 events hosted at the Library. Seventy-three were missing documentation such as letters of approval to host the event, agreements for the use of the facility and certificates of tax status for nonprofit groups.

In a letter responding to the report, Jo Ann Jenkins, the Library’s chief of staff, wrote that the Library plans to implement an automated system for documenting events. The special-events office will also require periodic review of the files.

The Library will also begin publishing status reports on its gift fund, Jenkins wrote, which could include information on event dates, sponsors, expenses or payments. A schedule and standards for the reports will be set after the Library implements a new revolving fund for its special events and programs, as approved by the 2002 legislative branch appropriations bill.

Additionally, GAO officials suggest in the report that the Library should examine other sources of financing to maintain the gift fund. Contributions received from groups using the Great Hall are the primary source of funds for paying salaries and benefits for the five full-time special-events staff members.

“We’re recommending that they conduct a new analysis and consider other options, and it will really be up to them to decide what that involves and what the possibilities are,” Franzel said. “Right now the funding is based on a narrow source, so they might look at other potential sources to add to the current source. There could be a whole variety of different options to use.”

Library officials have been working informally with GAO to design the new revolving fund, and Jenkins said in a interview that, “We were pretty much in sync and didn’t object … to any of the recommendations [GAO] made.”