Energy Regulation:

The Quality of DOE's Oil Overcharge Information

RCED-89-104: Published: Mar 15, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Economic Regulatory Administration's (ERA) efforts to collect oil overcharges from companies that violated petroleum price regulations, to determine: (1) whether ERA maintained accurate information on the outstanding oil overcharges it alleged; and (2) how ERA estimated for Congress the overcharges it expected to collect.

GAO found that: (1) ERA maintained a computerized case-tracking database that contained 218 active cases in administrative and judicial litigation, which it updated monthly and used primarily to monitor case status; (2) the overcharge amounts in the database were not entirely accurate or current, since it did not consistently contain both principal and interest amounts; (3) although the overcharge amount could change during litigation, ERA did not always update the database in a timely manner; (4) ERA did not support the estimates it provided to Congress, since it usually collected only a small portion of the amount of overcharge it alleged; (5) the ERA 1990 budget request estimated that it would collect between $200 million and $500 million from the resolution of remaining oil overcharge cases; (6) ERA developed its budget estimates using past estimates, subtracting the amounts it collected from settled cases, but did not have documentation to support the estimates; (7) Congress may require more complete and current information on the aggregate amount of overcharges that ERA can realistically collect from unresolved cases as the oil overcharge case load declines; and (8) ERA may need to improve the way it collects and maintains oil overcharge information.

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