Issues Concerning Section 403 Highway Safety Administration Expenses

Gao ID: 120226 September 20, 1979

An audit of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) highway safety research and development activities under section 403 of the 1966 Highway Safety Act revealed two issues concerning funding which warranted the attention of the Secretary of Transportation. The exact share of approximately $15 million of general administrative expenses related to overall direction and coordination of operations and research paid from funds of section 403 of the Highway Safety Act could not be established. A detailed study performed by the Office of Budget of NHTSA in 1970 established approximate percentages spent from various sources, but the study could not be found. Because NHTSA research changed emphasis several times since the early 1970's with regard to highway safety as distinct from motor vehicle safety and experienced reorganizations and increases in organizational expenses, it was believed that the method of funding general administrative expenses needed to be reexamined. Similarly, NHTSA National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) conducted research pertaining to both automobile and highway safety without determining how much research pertained to each area. The Office of Budget of NHTSA determined that section 403's appropriate share of NCSA research costs was about 40 percent without providing documentation that 40 percent was fair and reasonable. Therefore, it was recommended that NHTSA formulate methods for determining the appropriate share of section 403 funds for its general administrative expenses and for research performed by NCSA.

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