Congress Needs Reliable Cost Estimates and Established Priorities for Allocating Funds for Water Resources Projects

PSAD-79-13: Published: Jan 29, 1979. Publicly Released: Feb 23, 1981.

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GAO examined the estimated costs and efficiency of project construction in water resources programs.

The Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers need to improve cost estimates, establish priorities for allocating funds, and request full funding for their water resources construction projects. Cost estimates are based on incomplete data, are not always based on current prices, and do not consider inflation through project completion. In addition, neither the Corps nor the Bureau sets priorities on its projects for use by Congress in allocating funds. Delays and backlogs causing cost growth on major programs could be reduced if the Bureau and Corps set priorities and requested full funding of their projects.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Matter: Congress should base the construction authorization for water resources projects on better cost estimates derived from firmer designs. Such cost estimates and designs are developed later in the planning process but are available before construction begins. They are contained in the Bureau's definite plan reports and the Corps' phase II general design memorandums. Congress should also reduce delays to projects caused by lack of funding during the apppropriation process by fully funding construction of high-priority projects. Although this could reduce the ability of Congress to exercise annual control over expenditures, full funding of construction projects would reduce delays during construction.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

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

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct the Corps of Engineers to update each project's cost estimate prior to construction authorization and periodically thereafter by using current prices until better price indexes are developed. Both the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation should be directed by their respective parent agencies to provide Congress with a priority listing of projects when requesting appropriations for a large number of projects and request full funding for those approved. Finally, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget should require the Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation to identify separately for Congress the effect of inflation on future project costs of all active projects in the construction stage.

    Agency Affected:


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