Bureau of Indian Affairs:

Use of Highway Trust Fund Resources

AIMD-00-285R: Published: Aug 14, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 6, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) use of federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF) money for Indian reservation roads, focusing on: (1) what percentage of fiscal years 1999 and 1998 HTF contract authority available to BIA was obligated for: (a) management costs directly related to specific projects within a program for construction, repair, and improvement of roads; and (b) program management and oversight costs not directly related to specific projects; (2) whether BIA spent more than 6 percent of the contract authority allocated to its Midwest and Western Regional Offices on non-project-related program management costs for those offices; (3) whether the annual 6 percent statutory limitation on the use of HTF contract authority for road program management costs applies only to non-project-related management costs; and (4) whether the project-related costs that BIA bears for individual tribes should be paid from HTF contract authority or from BIA's annual appropriations for managing Indian programs or construction.

GAO noted that: (1) BIA's use of HTF contract authority was within statutory limitations; (2) of the HTF contract authority available to BIA in fiscal years 1999 and 1998--approximately $261 million and $218 million, respectively--about 5.7 percent in each year was used for program management and oversight costs not directly related to any one project but necessary to the program; (3) about $43 million in fiscal year 1999 and $46 million in fiscal year 1998 was used for project management costs, which are nonconstruction costs directly related to specific projects; (4) these costs represented about 17 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the contract authority available to BIA in those years; (5) while BIA as a whole used about 5.7 percent of available HTF contract authority for nonproject program management and oversight costs in both fiscal years 1999 and 1998, cost percentages varied at its Midwest and Western Regional Offices; (6) the Midwest Regional Office's non-project-related program management costs did not exceed 6 percent of its allocated contract authority in either fiscal year 1999 (4.0 percent) or 1998 (5.1 percent); (7) while this was also the case for the Western Regional Office for fiscal year 1999 (5.2 percent), that office used about 11.5 percent of available contract authority for non-project-related program management costs for fiscal year 1998; (8) based on applicable legislative language and the history of the 6-percent provision limiting the use of available federal HTF contract authority for road program management costs, GAO agrees with BIA's interpretation that this limitation applies only to the total amount of HTF contract authority BIA receives, not separately to each regional office and its allocated contract authority; (9) further, GAO agrees with BIA's view that the 6-percent limitation applies only to non-project-related costs1 of road program administration as opposed to any other cost category for which BIA uses HTF resources; (10) finally, GAO agrees with BIA's position that it is proper to use HTF budget authority to cover project-related management costs it incurs, rather than using its construction appropriations or Indian program appropriations; and (11) GAO has found no indication in the law or legislative history that Congress intended otherwise or that Congress included these costs in calculating BIA's annual appropriations.

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