Mass Transit Grants:

UMTA Needs to Improve Procurement Monitoring at Local Transit Authority

RCED-89-94: Published: Mar 31, 1989. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 1989.

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John H. Anderson, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Urban Mass Transportation Administration's (UMTA) oversight of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) procurement operations.

GAO found that: (1) an UMTA-hired independent consultant concluded that SEPTA procurement practices did not comply with federal requirements; (2) SEPTA established a task force to address problems the consultant identified, including lack of autonomy, inadequate written procedures, and competition restriction; and (3) UMTA planned to continue conducting pre-award reviews of proposed SEPTA contracts and will require SEPTA to report on its corrective actions. GAO also found that UMTA did not adequately monitor SEPTA procurement operations, since it: (1) lacked adequate documentation to show that it conducted appropriate analyses and pre-award reviews of proposed SEPTA procurements; (2) limited its pre-award reviews to ensuring that SEPTA submitted the required supporting documentation and written justifications; (3) approved proposed procurements on the basis of the specific contract and did not review procurements for compliance with other procurement requirements; (4) concluded, from a triennial review that did not focus on procurement practices, that SEPTA maintained a competitive procurement system; and (5) did not require SEPTA annual audits to report on compliance with its procurement requirements.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Over the last few years, FTA has implemented a number of GAO recommendations and other initiatives resulting in substantial improvements to its process to oversee its $4.6-billion grant management program. FTA has implemented a risk assessment program, enhanced the training and guidance provided to both staff and grantees, and made organizational changes and increased staff size to become more proactive in overseeing hundreds of federal grants. In addition, FTA has made a concerted effort to change the attitudes of its oversight staff and grantees toward safeguarding federal funds. More importantly, FTA has used its most powerful enforcement tool--withholding funds--to sanction grantees found to be mismanaging their grants. Based on these and other actions, GAO has removed FTA's high-risk designation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to increase the emphasis on the procurement area during triennial reviews at SEPTA by including the reviews and tests of selected procurements needed to determine that proper procurement procedures are in place and being followed.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: A November 13, 1989, memo from UMTA headquarters directed UMTA Region III to work with SEPTA to ensure that the next A-128 audit will include a review of SEPTA adherence to UMTA federal procurement requirements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to request SEPTA to have the independent auditor conducting the annual audit include the reviews and tests necessary to determine compliance with UMTA procurement requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Because of identified procurement problems, SEPTA was not able to provide self-certification for its procurement system. Therefore, UMTA Region III requires SEPTA to submit proposed procurements for review as a non-certified grantee, thus increasing the scope of its pre-award review of SEPTA.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, UMTA, to increase the scope of pre-award reviews of SEPTA contracts to include the analyses needed to identify procurement weaknesses and problems in complying with UMTA procurement requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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