Panama Canal Commission Expenditures for Entertainment, Official Residence, and Supervisory Board

ID-81-57: Published: Aug 5, 1981. Publicly Released: Aug 15, 1981.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO audited expenditures made by the Panama Canal Commission for: (1) entertainment; (2) operation and maintenance, including staffing of the official residence provided for the Administrator; and (3) expenses of the Supervisory Board established by the Panama Canal Act.

GAO found that the costs related to the three activities were scattered throughout the budget and that the Commission believed that the spending limits applied only to certain budget line items and not to related costs in other parts of the budget. In summing the costs, GAO found that the Commission was near violation of the Antideficiency Act with regard to its expenditures from appropriations for expenses of official reception and representation, including entertainment. GAO believed that this situation was related to the difficulty in making the transition from a corporate form to an appropriated fund agency and found no evidence of intent to circumvent the spending limits. GAO also believed that changes made in accounting for the costs of the residence were not adequately disclosed, and GAO disagreed with the rationale for certain of these changes. In assessing performance against the spending limits, the Commission needed to consider all expenditures for related activities rather than specific budget line items or how and where expenditures are recorded. GAO could appreciate how the Commission arrived at its conclusion, but the weight of the past decisions suggested that spending limits apply to the purposes of expenditures, not how the expenditures are budgeted or recorded.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: The Chairman of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries should request specific detailed analyses from the Panama Canal Commission for costs relating to entertainment, operation and maintenance, and expenses of the Supervisory Board.


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