Transit Grants:

Department of Labor's Certification Process

T-RCED-00-157: Published: Apr 25, 2000. Publicly Released: Apr 25, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its preliminary observations on the timeliness of the Department of Labor's (DOL) certification process for transit grants, focusing on: (1) DOL's process for issuing certifications for grant applications; (2) how DOL defines and calculates how long it takes to issue certifications; and (3) the trends and factors affecting the length of DOL's certification process.

GAO noted that: (1) DOL's certification process begins when the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) forwards a grant application to DOL; (2) DOL reviews the application for completeness; (3) if it is incomplete, DOL notifies FTA, requests the missing information, and suspends further processing; (4) if the application is complete, DOL recommends the employee protection terms and conditions that will apply to the grant and in most cases sends them to both the relevant labor unions and the grant applicant for review; (5) this is when DOL's 60-day clock starts; (6) the unions or the grant applicant can file any objections it may have with DOL, which then rules on them; (7) if DOL decides the objections are not valid, it will issue a certification based on its recommended terms and conditions; (8) if DOL determines an objection is valid, the parties are provided additional time to resolve their differences; (9) DOL's certification process allows fast tracking for applications that do not require union referral; (10) about 25 percent of the applications submitted from October 1996 through January 2000 were fast tracked and terms and conditions did not need to be referred to unions for review; (11) on average, DOL was able to issue a certification in 4 to 8 days if the terms and conditions did not need to be referred to any union for review; (12) overall, DOL has met its 60-day processing goal for 98 percent of the applications processed since January 1996; (13) however, the 60-day processing time does not include the time from DOL's initial receipt of an application until DOL refers labor protection terms and conditions to the applicable parties; (14) other trends and factors that could affect DOL's overall certification time are the increasing percentage of suspended grant applications, the fluctuation of applicant objections determined to be valid, and DOL's unwillingness to issue interim certifications when parties are unable to reach agreement within 60 days after DOL recommends terms and conditions; and (15) in general, DOL's timeliness depends on whether an application was complete and whether any of the parties object to the terms and conditions recommended by DOL.

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