Power Marketing Administrations

Repayment of Power Costs Needs Closer Monitoring Gao ID: AIMD-98-164 June 30, 1998

This report examines the monitoring of the repayment of the power-related costs and debt of four of the Energy Department's (DOE) power marketing administrations (PMA). The PMA's costs and the power-related costs of the agencies that generate the power marketed by the PMAs are required by law to be repaid. Repayment is to be made through revenues from federal power sales. Members of Congress have raised concern about, and GAO has previously reported on, the under-recovery of power-related costs and the large amount of debt outstanding--more than $14 billion as of September 1997. This report determines (1) whether DOE or the Treasury Department actively monitors the amount of debt to be repaid and the appropriateness of the annual payments and (2) whether there is a potential for financial loss to the federal government because of the lack of repayment monitoring.

GAO noted that: (1) current monitoring activities do not ensure that the federal government recovers the full cost of its power-related activities from the beneficiaries of federal power; (2) the full cost of the power-related activities includes all direct and indirect costs incurred by the federal government in producing, transmitting, and marketing federal power; (3) audits by external auditors and GAO's own work have identified various unrecovered power-related costs that resulted in financial loss; (4) progress toward resolving cost recovery issues has been slow or nonexistent; (5) unrecovered power-related costs relate to: (a) Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) pensions and post-retirement health benefits; (b) life insurance benefits; (c) workers' compensation benefits; and (d) interest on some of the federal appropriations used to construct certain projects; (6) GAO estimated that the federal government's unrecovered costs for CSRS pensions and post-retirement health benefits were about $37 million for fiscal year (FY) 1996 and about $192 million for FY 1992 through FY 1996; (7) the full magnitude of the under-recovery of power-related costs is unknown; (8) until an effective monitoring system is implemented, the federal government will continue to be exposed to financial loss to the under-recovery of power-related costs; (9) the current activities for monitoring the repayment of power-related costs and debt are less extensive than those undertaken in prior years; (10) previously, DOE's Office of Power Marketing Coordination (OPMC) monitored repayment and reviewed rate proposals before they were sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for review; however, DOE disbanded OPMC in 1984 and its monitoring duties generally were not assigned to another entity; (11) OPMC assessed whether appropriate costs were included in rates, but did not review the PMAs' power repayment studies in detail; (12) the scope of FERC's review of the three PMAs' rates was limited by the Secretary of Energy's 1983 revision to the delegation order under which FERC carries out that function; (13) the scope of FERC's review of Bonneville's rates was limited by the passage of the Pacific Northwest Electric Power Planning and Conservation Act; and (14) the review procedures previously performed by DOE's OPMC and FERC provided greater assurance that repayment amounts were accurate, complete, and timely.


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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