Review of Procedures Used To Provide Funds for Citizen/Government Transportation Planning Center

CED-80-99: Published: Jun 19, 1980. Publicly Released: Jun 19, 1980.

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GAO was asked to determine whether the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) complied with applicable rules and procedures concerning a DOT contract with the State of Connecticut for the operation of the Citizen/Government Transportation Planning Center in Windsor, Connecticut. A special DOT program account and an EPA salaries and expenses account, both administered at the agencies' headquarters, were designed to fund the contract. Allegations concerning the Center's organization and membership, duplication of efforts, its advocacy roles, competence, and fiscal controls were reviewed and found unsupported. The Center is staffed by volunteers and two paid employees who operate a statewide information center on air quality and transportation issues and provide public education/information materials to be used by State and local planning agencies. EPA and DOT each provided $25,000 for the operation of the Center, EPA's contribution was in the form of an interagency agreement and fund transfer to DOT. The contract was funded, in part, with money provided to the DOT Intermodal Planning Assistance Program which provides States, metropolitan areas, and local governments with planning assistance for unique problems for which other planning assistance may not be readily available. GAO found that the Center was eligible and had continuously received funds under other transportation planning assistance programs in the past. GAO beleives that Connecticut is in the best position to fund the Center with existing Federal assistance, and that DOT's funding of the contract with the Center appears to violate the DOT Intermodal Planning Assistance guidelines. Like DOT, EPA apparently bypassed established Federal assistance programs which could have funded the Center. Although GAO believed that the Center should have been considered for funding under established Federal grant/assistance programs administered by Connecticut, it found no legal or procedural prohibitions against DOT's use of a contract rather than a grant or cooperative agreement in this matter.

Both DOT and EPA acted within the scope of their responsibilities in providing contract funds for operation of the Center. GAO found that both agencies have authority in this instance to use the interagency agreement and contract. However, GAO questioned funding the Center through DOT and EPA headquarters-administered funds, which may bypass established Federal planning assistance programs. Without a clearly documented deficiency, GAO believed that Connecticut could best establish funding priorities and assign tasks for its public participation and information programs. Using other funding sources might work at cross purposes with existing assistance guidelines that encourage States and local planning agencies to use a portion of their Federal assistance for public participation and information efforts. In the case of EPA, GAO believed that using salaries and expenses funds was inappropriate. These funds are to be used for the direct personnel costs and administrative requirements of EPA.

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