Energy Management:

Better Federal Oversight of Territories' Oil Overcharge Funds Needed

RCED-92-24: Published: Feb 21, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 16, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the planned and actual uses of $68 million from two oil overcharge cases, made available to five U.S. insular areas, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, focusing on: (1) the amount of funds the territories have spent, and whether they have accurately reported expenditure information to Congress; and (2) whether the Departments of Energy (DOE) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have adequate monitoring procedures to ensure that the territories use oil overcharge funds in accordance with legislative and judicial requirements.

GAO found that: (1) as of June 1990, the territories had developed plans for spending about $52 million of the $68 million in available funds; (2) before April 1991, DOE provided quarterly reports to Congress on the territories' planned and DOE-approved uses of funds, but the reports did not include information on the amounts actually spent; (3) both DOE and HHS have established procedures to monitor the uses of oil overcharge funds, but their monitoring practices provide limited assurance that the funds are adequately accounted for and that improper uses of funds are identified, since DOE field offices do not always follow the monitoring guidance issued by DOE headquarters, DOE does not plan to monitor nongrant projects, and HHS performs limited reviews of Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program expenditures; (4) the Office of Management and Budget has taken actions to require that oil overcharge funds be included in the independent audits performed under the Single Audit Act of 1984; and (5) as of June 1990, the territories had spent about $23 million of the available funds, and the territories' plans for spending an additional $29 million were delayed by administrative, legislative, and procedural delays.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE plans to continue its policy of only reviewing states' and territories' uses of only those funds used in the federal energy grant programs, where the rules of the programs used apply.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Renewable Energy to review states' accounting and uses of oil overcharge funds to determine if similar weaknesses found in the territories exist, and implement appropriate corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE has issued two legal opinions stating that the oil overcharge funds are not federal funds. As a result, DOE has determined that the oil overcharge funds do not require any additional review by DOE to supplement Single Audit Act reviews.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Renewable Energy to require agency staff to carry out reviews of the territories' compliance with requirements governing the accounting and use of oil overcharge funds as needed to supplement the Single Audit Act audits.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE has issued two legal opinions stating that the oil overcharge funds are not federal funds. As a result, DOE has determined that the oil overcharge funds are not subject to the Single Audit Act and do not require additional review by DOE to determine the extent to which the audit reports ensure compliance with the act.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Renewable Energy to review the territories' submission of audit reports mandated by the Single Audit Act of 1984 to determine the extent to which the reports ensure compliance with requirements governing the use of oil overcharge funds. This review should include funds used for both grant and nongrant programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE agreed to include the most complete, accurate, and up-to-date information in reports to Congress, and has corrected and updated data in the instances where such deficiencies were identified.

    Recommendation: So that Congress receives accurate information on the Status of Exxon and Stripper Well funds available, the Secretary of Energy should require the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Renewable Energy to use the most complete, accurate, and up-to date information available in preparing DOE reports to Congress on territories' and states' receipts and expenditures of oil overcharge funds.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE conducted a series of visits to its support offices to assess their monitoring activities, and determined that a standard level of monitoring is needed. To ensure uniformity, all support offices are required to report directly to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Technical and Financial Assistance in the Office of Conservation and Renewable Energy.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary for Conservation and Renewable Energy to take action to ensure that field offices carry out their monitoring activities in concert with Office of Technical and Financial Assistance monitoring guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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