Federal Lands:

Improvements Needed in Managing Short-Term Concessioners

RCED-93-177: Published: Sep 14, 1993. Publicly Released: Oct 14, 1993.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the federal government's oversight of concessioners operating on federal recreation lands under short-term agreements, focusing on the government's policy and practices for: (1) evaluating short-term concessioners' performance; (2) ensuring that short-term concessioners comply with federal, state, and local health and safety laws and regulations; (3) ensuring that short-term concessioners' prices are reasonable; and (4) establishing fees for short-term use of federal land.

GAO found that: (1) short-term concessioners operating on federal lands are not treated consistently by the four agencies that manage the lands because of varying policies and practices; (2) not all short-term concessioners are subject to annual performance evaluations; (3) some required performance evaluations are not done due to funding problems and logistics and may not be documented; (4) National Park Service concessioners operate under three different types of agreements and performance evaluations are only required for permit and limited-permit holders; (5) most short-term concessioners do not receive health and safety inspections although they are required to comply with all applicable laws and regulations; (6) the Park Service is the only agency that requires documentation when other qualified agencies perform health and safety inspections, but it does not require inspection of its commercial-use license holders; (7) the agencies cite the lack of resources, responsibility, and reported complaints as the reasons for not doing health and safety inspections; (8) price reviews are generally not required and the agencies rely on market forces to regulate prices; and (9) short-term concessioners' fees vary by agency due to different fee criteria.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: While informal coordination efforts continue between the land management agencies, there no longer appears to be a significant interest from Congress or the agencies in developing more consistent management practices of short-term concession operations.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should require the heads of the four agencies with short-term concessioner agreements to develop and present to Congress a policy to achieve greater consistency in the management of concession operations. Such a policy should ensure that: (1) short-term concessioners are evaluated, inspected, and charged fees in a like manner; (2) prices charged the public are reviewed; and (3) all appropriate health and safety inspections are conducted and documented. Where the federal agency does not conduct the required inspection, the agency should receive and review a copy of the inspection report to document that the inspection was conducted in a timely manner and by a qualified inspector.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: While informal coordination efforts continue between the land management agencies, there no longer appears to be a significant interest from Congress or the agencies in developing more consistent management practices of short-term concession operations.

    Recommendation: The Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture should require the heads of the four agencies with short-term concessioner agreements to develop and present to Congress a policy to achieve greater consistency in the management of concession operations. Such a policy should ensure that: (1) short-term concessioners are evaluated, inspected, and charged fees in a like manner; (2) prices charged the public are reviewed; and (3) all appropriate health and safety inspections are conducted and documented. Where the federal agency does not conduct the required inspection, the agency should receive and review a copy of the inspection report to document that the inspection was conducted in a timely manner and by a qualified inspector.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Between 1995 and 1997, the Park Service did a review of all of its incidental business permits (IBP)--formerly called commercial use licenses--to determine if any belonged under a concessions contract. The agency has developed criteria for what types of business operations belong under IBPs and has trained over 250 agency concessions staff on how to administer these permits. In addition, the Park Service now requires those operating under an IBP to report visitor use and revenue data to the agency. Furthermore, the fee for an IBP is now based on the cost for the agency to issue, administer, and monitor the permit.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director, National Park Service, to reevaluate each concessioner operating under a commercial-use license to determine whether the activities conducted should more appropriately be under a permit in order to be consistent with the way other federal agencies manage similar activities on federal land.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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