Surface Mining:

State Management of Abandoned Mine Land Funds

RCED-87-57: Published: Feb 6, 1987. Publicly Released: Mar 9, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated how effectively states manage their abandoned mine reclamation funds, specifically whether they: (1) have adequate financial controls to ensure the proper use of reclamation funds; (2) are reclaiming eligible sites in proper priority sequence; (3) are managing projects in accordance with federal procurement, monitoring, and reporting standards; and (4) are correcting problems through completed projects.

GAO reviewed five states' reclamation programs and found that: (1) the states implemented financial control procedures and practices to ensure the proper expenditure of reclamation funds; (2) only one state complied with all related grant payment, audit, and inventory requirements; (3) the states generally reclaimed eligible, high-priority projects; (4) the states managed their reclamation projects in compliance with applicable procurement and project monitoring standards, except for Kentucky's selection of design contractors, which lacked documentation; (5) the states conducted inspections both immediately after completing construction and later to ensure that projects successfully resolved their reclamation problems; and (6) although none of the states compiled summary data, most completed projects successfully reduced the number of problems. GAO noted that it could not readily assess the overall success of the projects in reducing identified problems because summary data were not available.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OSMRE strengthened its compliance by evaluating the states' compliance with OMB Circular A-102 during its fiscal year (FY) 1988 oversight review of state programs. In addition, it is now requiring OSMRE field offices to monitor state adherence to the circular, and has requested OIG internal reviews of state management systems.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE), to emphasize to the states the importance of complying with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-102 requirements related to disbursing federal grant funds in a timely manner, inventorying physical equipment, and conducting audits. To ensure that states have taken any necessary steps to bring their programs into compliance, the Director, OSMRE, should follow up on their compliance as part of Interior's annual oversight evaluations.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State compliance with federal procurement requirements is emphasized through the state annual evaluation process. OSMRE directs states to provide all information required by federal performance reporting standards in the states' semiannual reports. Reports are reviewed for compliance with GAO recommendations.

    Recommendation: To correct remaining weaknesses in state management of abandoned mine lands projects and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) oversight of that management, the Secretary of the Interior should require the Director, OSMRE, to: (1) direct those states, like Kentucky, that do not comply with federal procurement standards, to bring their programs into compliance; (2) direct the states to provide all information required by federal performance reporting standards in the states' semiannual reports on specific projects to OSMRE; and (3) strongly encourage those states not documenting the results of post-construction inspections to begin doing so.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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