Additional Actions Needed to Improve Transparency and Accountability

December 15, 2011

What GAO Found

Treasury adopted procedures to help ensure that applicants were evaluated consistently and were likely to repay funds, but its lack of clarity in explaining program requirements and decisions created confusion among applicants. The evaluation process included input from federal and state regulators, reviews of small business lending plans, and estimates of the applicants’ ability to repay funds. GAO’s analysis of the inputs Treasury relied on for its decisions showed that Treasury generally followed its process, although additional steps were taken for some applicants, such as revising repayment estimates to include updated information provided by federal regulators. Also, Treasury’s initial announcement of program requirements did not make clear that applicants could not have restrictions on paying dividends, affecting over 200 applicants. Treasury also did not explain the rationale for its funding decisions to applicants and other stakeholders, and many applicants who were not approved were not notified until September 2011—almost 4 months after the application deadline and initial disbursements of funds. Although Treasury had several outreach efforts to communicate with the public about SBLF, such efforts have not always been timely or clear to applicants and other stakeholders and could contribute to SBLF being poorly understood by the public and Congress.

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