PWBA Urged to Upgrade Enforcement Coordination

March 15 2002 ( - The Pension Welfare Benefits Administration has never studied the extent of non-compliance with federal pension and benefit laws so it can't be sure its current enforcement system is properly targeted, a Congressional watchdog agency said.

In a report released Friday, the General Accounting Office (GAO) also complained that the PWBA, the agency charged with primary enforcement of pension/benefit laws, has not studied which kind of information leads about pension non-compliance have sparked investigations.

Also, PWBA enforcement personnel still don’t have enough access to automated information databases to help select new enforcement targets, despite the agency’s efforts to modernize its technology use, the GAO said.


While the agency’s decentralized management of its regional offices generally produced a “well-run program,” it nonetheless has also resulted in weak coordination that could potentially harm enforcement cases, the GAO said.

PWBA officials told GAO researchers that they provide general policy guidance to field office personnel – particularly about whether a proposed enforcement case falls within current priorities: investigating third-party plan providers, health benefit issues, and defined contribution plans.

PWBA investigators also contact the target company directly to encourage executives to voluntarily notify the agency when pension or health plan problems first arise, the GAO report said. 


The GAO included a series of recommendations. It said the agency needs to improve:

  • its enforcement case-selection process
  • development and sharing of pension administration best practices
  • its quality assurance program.

GAO researchers also said that the PWBA, among other things, should:

  • develop a case quality review process
  • figure out how to rid the voluntary compliance initiative of barriers for plan sponsor involvement.
  • study its current and future personnel needs.

Read the full GAO report at GAO Website .