Mass Transit

Grants Management Oversight Improving, but Better Follow-up Needed on Grantees' Noncompliance Gao ID: RCED-98-89 April 3, 1998

In 1992, GAO included the Federal Transit Administration's (FTA) management and oversight of billions of dollars in federal transit grants in its list of government programs at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. Since then, FTA has tried to address the program's oversight weaknesses. Because of various initiatives that FTA has undertaken, GAO removed FTA from its high-risk list in February 1995--with the understanding that GAO would continue to monitor FTA's progress. This report discusses GAO's latest review of FTA's grants management oversight. GAO focuses on (1) FTA's initiatives that have provided greater focus on grants management and oversight and (2) the improvements that can be made to correct grantees' noncompliance and assess the program's effectiveness.

GAO noted that: (1) ongoing initiatives and related organizational changes are continuing to strengthen FTA's oversight of federal transit grants and thus decrease the risk associated with its multibillion-dollar grants program; (2) by improving guidance and training for staff and grantees, standardizing oversight procedures, and using contractor staff, FTA has improved the quality and consistency of its grants management oversight; (3) FTA has also made better use of other specialized oversight tools at its disposal, and has demonstrated a greater willingness to use enforcement actions to compel grantees to resolve noncompliance issues; (4) although FTA is improving its oversight of federal transit grants, the agency needs to give more attention to issuing reports on triennial reviews in a timely manner; (5) in addition, while GAO found that documentation pertaining to the various grants management oversight reviews was adequately maintained by most FTA regional offices, the almost total lack of documentation found in FTA's New York Regional Office, the region that oversees the most transit grant dollars, gives GAO little confidence that appropriate followup on noncompliance findings was being performed there; (6) furthermore, many grantees still frequently do not meet FTA's timeframes for correcting the noncompliance findings and deficiencies identified by oversight reviews; (7) in many cases, FTA regional officials told GAO that these problems could often be attributed to the lack of staff assigned to carry out oversight activities; (8) in this connection, GAO noted that FTA never followed through on an internal task force's earlier recommendation to look at how staff allocations are made between program and oversight functions; (9) as a result, there is no strong correlation between the number of grants, the number of staff performing oversight, and the time spent on oversight from region to region; (10) FTA does not know the full extent to which grantees' noncompliance with federal requirements is putting federal dollars at risk because it is not effectively using an established information system intended to track the resolution of oversight findings; (11) the system is not updated by regional staff as required, nor is it used by headquarters officials to help manage or monitor the oversight activities of FTA's regional staff--leaving FTA susceptible to, and unable to quickly respond to, situations in any of its regional offices that might compromise good oversight; and (12) officials said they are working to improve this system.


Our recommendations from this work are listed below with a Contact for more information. Status will change from "In process" to "Open," "Closed - implemented," or "Closed - not implemented" based on our follow up work.

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