Establishing Development Ceilings for All National Park Service Units

AFMD-81-31: Published: Apr 10, 1981. Publicly Released: May 11, 1981.

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GAO interviewed program, planning, and budget officials at the National Park Service to examine Park Service records relating to development ceilings and compare those records with the legislation cited to ascertain if development ceilings had been exceeded. GAO tried to determine if development ceilings were controlling the development costs of Park Service units. A development ceiling is the total authorization available for development of a particular park unit.

Development ceilings have not been an effective tool for Congress to use in controlling costs because: (1) ceilings have not been established for most parks; (2) where ceilings have been established, recordkeeping is inadequate to readily ascertain if ceilings are exceeded; (3) ceilings do not have estimated completion dates; and (4) there is uncertainty about which expenses are covered by ceilings. Appropriations have surpassed authorized limits in two cases; however, neither case constitutes a legal violation because lawful appropriations were passed allowing authorized limits to be exceeded. GAO found 36 errors in recording the remaining 136 development ceilings. Such recording errors raise the possibility that other ceilings may have been exceeded without the records indicating it. From a previous review, GAO knows of inconsistencies in identifying expenditures to be charged against development ceilings. If Congress wishes to continue to use ceilings, it should establish them for all units, review them on a cyclical basis, and require proper accounting procedures to make them effective in controlling development costs. Congress could eliminate development ceilings altogether, but this would diminish the control that authorizing committees now exercise. If ceilings are to be continued, the Park Service and Congress should agree upon precise definitions of the type of expenditures to be charged against the ceilings.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: If Congress wishes to continue to use ceilings, it should establish them for all units, review them on a cyclical basis, and require proper accounting procedures to make them effective in controlling development costs. Congress could eliminate development ceilings altogether, but this would diminish the control that authorizing committees now exercise. If ceilings are to be continued, the Park Service and Congress should agree upon precise definitions of the type of expenditures to be charged against the ceilings.

 

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