Pipeline Safety Fund:

Minimum Balance Was Not Reasonably Estimated

GAO-01-523: Published: Apr 30, 2001. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 2001.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Linda M. Calbom
(202) 512-8341
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

The use of incorrect or unreliable data and inappropriate assumptions in the Research and Special Program Administration's (RSPA) calculation of the minimum Pipeline Safety Fund (PSF) balance caused RSPA to overstate the necessary minimum balance. Crucial to a reasonable calculation of the PSF minimum balance is an analysis of expected receipts as compared to expected obligations. Until RSPA does this type of analysis, it will be unable to reasonably estimate the required minimum PSF balance. In addition, the timing of the Office of Pipeline Safety's (OPS) cash receipts is affected by OPS' slow data collection and verification process. This process results in delayed billings and likely delays cash receipts, resulting in a larger required minimum PSF balance. OPS' current efforts to implement a new Internet-based data collection and billing system could shorten what is now an extended billing process. Finalizing the operator data on which the fee assessments are based at an earlier date would allow billing to take place shortly after the agency received its appropriation for the fiscal year. Accordingly, fee revenue would likely be available for obligation in a more timely manner and help reduce the required minimum PSF balance.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) of the Department of Transportation completed installation of the Internet-accessible database system allowing RSPA to expedite its billing process and faster collect the user fees from the pipeline operators who are billed electronically under the installed system.

    Recommendation: In order to provide for a reasonable calculation of the minimum PSF balance and to improve the user fee billing process, the Secretary of Transportation should direct RSPA's Administrator to complete installation of the Internet-accessible database system allowing on-line input and verification of operator data and electronic mailing of bills.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Research and Special Programs Administration of the Department of Transportation implemented GAO's recommendation when it performed an analysis of its Pipeline Safety Fund in the fiscal year 2002 by using correct financial information. The purpose of the analysis was to estimate the minimum year end balance that could be maintained in it to temporarily fund its operations until the user fees are collected without triggering the Antideficiency Act.

    Recommendation: In order to provide for a reasonable calculation of the minimum PSF balance and to improve the user fee billing process, the Secretary of Transportation should direct RSPA's Administrator to take steps, including reconciliation of conflicting data, to ensure that the financial information used in the analysis is accurate and that it includes all of the relevant revenue factors.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In fiscal year 2002, the Research and Special Programs Administration of the Department of Transportation calculated the expected minimum year end balance in its Pipeline Safety Fund that could be maintained without triggering the Antideficiency Act, by taking into consideration changes in expected obligations and cash collections in comparison with previous years' collections and obligations.

    Recommendation: In order to provide for a reasonable calculation of the minimum PSF balance and to improve the user fee billing process, the Secretary of Transportation should direct RSPA's Administrator to annually calculate the expected minimum balance for the PSF to take into consideration changes in expected obligations and collections.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Research and Special Programs Administration of the Department of Transportation calculated the minimum year end balance required in its Pipeline Safety Fund (PSF) for fiscal year 2002 based on the methodology, which GAO recommended, by comparing timing and amounts of expected cash collections to expected PSF obligations.

    Recommendation: In order to provide for a reasonable calculation of the minimum PSF balance and to improve the user fee billing process, the Secretary of Transportation should direct RSPA's Administrator to base calculations for future years on an analysis of the timing and amounts of expected obligations and cash collections associated with the level and types of program activities planned.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) of the Department of Transportation reengineered the pipeline operator data collection and verification processes so that data on which bills will be based to 750 pipeline operators will be annually finalized by October 1. Furthermore, it will allow RSPA to timely bill assessments to pipeline operators and faster collect user fees from them.

    Recommendation: In order to provide for a reasonable calculation of the minimum PSF balance and to improve the user fee billing process, the Secretary of Transportation should direct RSPA's Administrator to reengineer the operator data collection and verification processes so that all data on which bills will be based are finalized by October 1 annually to allow for timely billing.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 14, 2016

Sep 2, 2016

Aug 8, 2016

Jul 28, 2016

Jul 13, 2016

Jul 7, 2016

Jun 24, 2016

Jun 21, 2016

May 26, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here