Report: SEC resources, staffing don't match workload

General Accounting Office Comptroller General David Walker told the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday that he believes the Securities and Exchange Commission's resources and staffing levels have failed to keep pace with the agency's growing caseload.

Walker told the committee at a hearing on accounting standards that a number of important an "interrelated systemic issues" had been raised by Enron's collapse and by other recent earnings misstatements and business failures.

In report released Tuesday, "SEC Operations: Increased Workload Creates Challenges" (GAO-02-302), GAO concluded that there was "a growing mismatch between the SEC's responsibilities and resources."

Those resources are not just financial, but are "human as well as technological capabilities" as well, Walker said.

Walker recommended a "comprehensive and integrated plan to address these matters, focusing on value and risk."

GAO determined that the SEC's personnel challenges are of particular importance, he added, given the high turnover rates at the agency.

Walker also said it was "critically important" that the SEC have "a strong and effective and credible enforcement function," which includes criminal as well as the civil penalties on which the program is now largely based.

President Bush's fiscal 2003 budget calls for a 6.6 percent funding increase at the SEC, to $466.9 million, but would not provide enough funding for additional staff. It would allocate enough for a modest raise to boost SEC salaries to be more aligned with salaries at other government agencies.

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