National Science Foundation's Compliance With the Inflation Adjustment Act

GAO-02-932R: Published: Jul 26, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 26, 2002.

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J. Christopher Mihm
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The Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990 required each federal agency to issue a regulation adjusting its covered maximum civil monetary penalties for inflation by October 23, 1996, and to make necessary adjustments at least once every 4 years thereafter. During its review, GAO determined that the National Science Foundation (NSF) had adjusted its maximum civil penalties more than the act permits. First, the NSF adjusted the civil penalties by 10 percent, which increased the penalty for an unintentional violation of the statue from $5,000 to $5,500 and increased the penalty for an intentional violation from $10,000 to $11,000. Second, the rule noted that for violations occurring after December 31, 1997, the maximum civil penalty would be $12,000 for unintentional violations and $23,000 for intentional violations. This second adjustment accounted for all of the changes in the Consumer Price Index between June 1978 and June 1995 that had not been accounted for by the initial 10 percent increase. NSF's second adjustment is inconsistent with the act's requirements.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Science Foundation's (NSF)General Counsel agreed with GAO's conclusion and recommendation, and the agency published a final rule with request for comments on August 30, 2002 (67 FR 55728) that adjusted the agency's penalties. NSF specifically said that it was correcting its error in response to GAO's action.

    Recommendation: NSF should publish a regulation amending its civil penalties under the Antarctic Conservation Act of 1978 to be consistent with the requirements in the Inflation Adjustment Act.

    Agency Affected: National Science Foundation


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