The Maritime Administration and the National Maritime Council--Was Their Relationship Appropriate?

CED-79-91: Published: May 18, 1979. Publicly Released: May 29, 1979.

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The Maritime Administration (MarAd), an agency within the Department of Commerce, is charged with promoting the development of a strong American merchant marine. One method of achieving this goal is to help the U.S. shipping industry to increase its cargo share of U.S. oceanborne trade. To promote this program, the National Maritime Council was organized in 1971 as a nonprofit organization which would bring together all elements of the maritime industry, such as carriers, shipbuilders, maritime labor unions, and the Government. GAO made a review of the nature of the relationship between MarAd and the National Maritime Council. The Secretary of Commerce directed MarAd to withdraw from the Council in July 1978 because of questions raised concerning the relationship between MarAd and the Council.

MarAd employees generally claimed and received the proper reimbursement for their Council-related travel. However, certain MarAd employees received excess per diem payments because they did not reduce their per diem claims when they received meals free of charge from the Council. During the subcommittee's July 21, 1978 hearings, MarAd underestimated the cost of its support of the Council. A list of Council-related meetings and functions submitted by MarAd to the subcommittee during its July 21, 1978 meeting was incomplete. The receipt of free transportation, lodging, and meals by certain MarAd officials raises serious questions of possible violations of standards of conduct. MarAd employees performed publicity and propaganda-related activities which may have violated Federal "anti-lobbying" appropriation restrictions. MarAd employees violated Department of Commerce standards of conduct regulations while performing certain Coucil-related activities.

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