The Department of Transportation Found That It Improperly Obligated Motor Carrier Grant Funds

GAO-11-517R: Published: May 5, 2011. Publicly Released: May 12, 2011.

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Susan A. Fleming
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In May 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) alerted your offices that it might have violated statutory restrictions when obligating funds to states for its Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN) program. CVISN awards grants to state offices to support improved information technology exchanges between government agencies and the motor carrier industry to enhance motor carrier safety and other efforts. In 2005, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) provided $25 million annually in contract authority and established funding restrictions for CVISN awards. FMCSA temporarily shut down the CVISN program in May 2010 to determine whether it violated funding restrictions and to prevent exacerbating any problems; it has not determined when it will restart the program. In response to congressional request, this report addresses (1) whether FMCSA complied with statutory requirements when awarding CVISN grants to states and (2) actions that the agency is taking to manage the award of CVISN grants effectively.

In summary, FMCSA found that it committed 47 statutory violations. The violations occurred from fiscal years 2006 through 2010 and totaled about $23 million, representing about 18 percent of the $125 million in total contract authority available for the CVISN program during that period. For example, in fiscal year 2007 it obligated about $1 million more than the $25 million that it had available in contract authority. The department is considering possible actions to address the violations, such as recovering improperly awarded funds. FMCSA identified (1) the agency's failure to track grants awarded in previous years and (2) the dissemination of an erroneous policy as the primary factors contributing to the violations and has identified a number of other factors that exacerbated the problems with CVISN awards. FMCSA has taken some actions to address these factors, such as developing a financial history of grants awarded in previous years, but has no estimate for resuming the CVISN program and no plan outlining milestones to achieve that result. Furthermore, several states have had to cancel CVISN contracts because they have been unable to receive CVISN grant funds due to the program shut down.

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