Debt Collection:

Interior's Efforts To Collect Delinquent Royalties, Fines, and Assessments

AFMD-87-21BR: Published: Jun 18, 1987. Publicly Released: Jul 9, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO examined the Department of the Interior's collection efforts in the mineral, timber, and reclamation management programs that have receivables due from royalties, fines, and assessments.

GAO noted that: (1) the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), Minerals Management Service (MMS), and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are responsible for collecting delinquent receivables for Interior; (2) OSMRE receivables consisted primarily of civil penalties OSMRE assessed against coal mining companies for failing to correct mine reclamation violations and reclamation fees for abandoned mines; (3) MMS receivables result primarily from audits of oil and gas company royalty production reports; and (4) BLM receivables result primarily from trespass violations and timber contracts. GAO found that, as of September 30, 1986: (1) Interior receivables totalled $2.5 billion, $284 million of which was delinquent; (2) OSMRE receivables totalled $158 million, $155 million of which was delinquent; (3) MMS receivables totalled $105 million, $75 million of which was delinquent; and (4) BLM receivables totalled $8 million, $7.5 million of which was delinquent. GAO also found that: (1) OSMRE estimates that it will not collect 80 to 85 percent of its delinquencies, since they are several years old; (2) OSMRE recognizes that it has serious debt collection problems and is taking steps to resolve those problems; (3) many MMS receivables remain delinquent because they are under dispute and await the outcome of appeals; (4) most MMS receivables under appeal are secured by bond or letter of credit; and (5) BLM is unlikely to collect many receivables in full because of court awards for less than the receivable amount.

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