Chemical Safety Board

Status of Implementation Efforts Gao ID: T-RCED-99-167 April 29, 1999

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board recommends ways to enhance industrial safety on the basis of its investigations of accidental releases of toxic and hazardous chemicals and its other activities. The Board was funded at $4 million in fiscal year 1998--its first year of operation--and $6.5 million in fiscal year 1999. The Board is required to submit its budget request concurrently to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress. For fiscal year 2000, the Board has asked for $12.5 million while the President's budget, after OMB's review, calls for $7.5 million for the Board. In response to congressional concerns that the new organization's operational costs, especially salaries, might grow too quickly and become excessive, GAO reviewed the Board's efforts to carry out its mission. This testimony provides information on the status of the Board's (1) investigations and recommendations, (2) pay structure and use of staff, and (3) contracting activities.

GAO noted that: (1) the Board has undertaken 11 full-scale investigations of chemical incidents and issued reports with recommendations on 2 of them; (2) draft reports are in process for 7 of the remaining investigations; (3) the Board's recommendations have been aimed at encouraging industry and government agencies to upgrade their procedures, training, and communication of hazards; (4) as of February 1, 1999, the Board had 20 employees widely distributed among its offices, such as investigations, general counsel, and external relations, and 4 Board members; (5) the average compensation is about $89,000 in salary and benefits; (6) the Board expects this average compensation to be reduced to about $68,000 if it receives approval to hire up to 60 employees; (7) GAO identified 8 contracts between the Board and other entities that cost $100,000 or more; (8) the total cost of the 8 contracts was about $3 million; (9) about one-third of this amount directly supported the Board's investigations; (10) the balance involved acquiring such goods and services as the development of a web site, the establishment of a chemical incident data base, and the production of an informational video; (11) GAO has two main concerns about the Board's actions to date; (12) the Board has not updated its August 1997 Business Plan to reflect the unanticipated backlog of ongoing investigations; (13) critical to any effective plan for addressing this backlog is an examination of how the Board chooses cases to investigate and how it allocates its existing and future resources; (14) the Board has not instituted formal, written procedures for its staff to follow in awarding and managing contracts; and (15) such procedures can help ensure adequate internal controls and help avoid some contracting problems encountered by the Board.

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