Bureau of Land Management:

Improper Charges Made to Mining Law Administration Program

GAO-01-356: Published: Mar 8, 2001. Publicly Released: Mar 29, 2001.

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The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Mining Law Administration Program (MLAP) is responsible for managing the environmentally responsible exploration and development of locatable minerals on public lands. The program is funded through mining fees collected from the holders of unpatented mining claims and sites and by appropriations to the extent that fees are inadequate to fund the program. Congress and program managers need accurate cost information in order to make informed program and budgeting decisions. However, GAO found that BLM's financial records did not accurately reflect the true costs of its programs because the costs of labor and a number of contracts and services costs were charged to MLAP and not to the appropriate program. As a result, other subactivities benefited from the charging of these improper costs and fewer funds have been available for actual MLAP operations. BLM has taken steps to make correcting adjustments for improper charges to MLAP contracts and services; however, additional adjustments are needed to correct for labor costs that were improperly charged to MLAP. Until these adjustments for improperly charged labor are made, Congress and program managers can place only a limited reliance on the accuracy of MLAP cost information.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Bureau of Land Management (BLM) considers this recommendation closed. BLM did not identify and make correcting adjustments for improper internal BLM labor/payroll costs charged to the Mining Law Administrative Program appropriation account as provided for by the recommendation. We requested information of the adjustments for several years. However, the agency did not provide support.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Bureau of Land Management should make correcting adjustments for improper charges to appropriation accounts.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, BLM issued Instruction Memorandum No. 2001-144 on May 7, 2001. The memorandum was addressed to all BLM employees and stated that "It is Bureauwide policy to assure that moneys appropriated for the MLAP are properly expended and recorded in the BLM's financial systems for all BLM offices. Using MLAP funds for purposes unrelated to the MLAP is a violation of 31 U.S.C. 1301(a)." The memorandum further stated that any costs coded to the MLAP subactivity must directly relate to or benefit MLAP and instructed BLM supervisors to be sure that employees who charge to MLAP receive and follow this guidance.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Bureau of Land Management should remind employees that time charges and other obligations are to be made to the benefiting subactivity as stated in BLM's Fund Coding Handbook and develop a mechanism to test compliance.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, BLM issued Instruction Memorandum No. 2001-144 on May 7, 2001. The memorandum was addressed to all BLM employees and provided specific guidance as to which activities are MLAP-related, and also documented procedures for the proper coding of labor and expenditures to MLAP.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Bureau of Land Management should provide detailed guidance clarifying which tasks are chargeable to MLAP operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, BLM issued Instruction Memorandum No. 2001-144 on May 7, 2001. The memorandum requires that supervisors ensure that employees who charge to MLAP receive and follow the guidance provided on MLAP-related operations, and the procedures for the proper coding of labor and expenditures to MLAP. BLM officials in the Solid Minerals Group stated that field office supervisors have been providing supervisory training to their employees on the proper charging of MLAP-related activities. Officials have received numerous telephone calls and emails from field office personnel verifying that specific work is being properly charged. In addition, after the issuance of GAO's report, the Deputy Director of BLM stated in an upper-level management conference that "integrity in coding to MLAP is absolutely essential," and stressed that BLM would have little tolerance for future miscodings to that subactivity.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Bureau of Land Management should conduct training on this guidance for all employees authorized to charge MLAP.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior: Bureau of Land Management

 

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