EPA Can Improve Its Monitoring of Superfund Expenditures

RCED-99-139: Published: May 11, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Superfund Program expenditures, focusing on: (1) the relative shares of Superfund expenditures for contractor cleanup work, site-specific support, and non-site-specific support; (2) the activities carried out with the EPA's cleanup support spending, particularly its non-site-specific spending; and (3) EPA's efforts to monitor and analyze how its regions and headquarters units spend Superfund resources, particularly the distribution of expenditures among contractor cleanup work, site-specific support, and non-site-specific support.

GAO noted that: (1) over the last 3 years, the share of total Superfund expenditures for contractor cleanup work was about 45 percent in fiscal year 1998; (2) over this period, expenditures for non-site-specific support were about 38 percent, whereas those for site-specific support were about 17 percent; (3) however, GAO found substantial variation among EPA's regions in the shares of their expenditures devoted to each of these cost categories; (4) for example, spending for non-site-specific support ranged from a low of 14 percent in EPA's Boston region to 30 percent in EPA's San Francisco region; (5) EPA spends its support funds predominately on administrative activities; (6) although EPA classifies its Superfund expenditures into over 100 separate activity categories, GAO found that over 60 percent of all Superfund support expenditures (both site-specific and non-site-specific) were accounted for by three activities--general support and management, general enforcement support, and remedial support and management; (7) moreover, almost 80 percent of EPA's non-site-specific spending was concentrated on these three administrative activities; (8) for the three regions that GAO reviewed in detail, these non-site-specific expenditures were primarily personnel expenses for activities such as management, administrative and secretarial support, financial management, public affairs, and contract management; (9) for the three headquarters units that GAO reviewed in detail, this spending was on items such as rent, information management, facilities operations and maintenance, program and policy development, and budgetary, financial, and administrative support; (10) EPA monitors the Superfund spending of its regions and headquarters units in several ways, including tracking whether funds are obligated at the expected rate and in compliance with the approved operating plan, and monitoring program accomplishments; (11) however, EPA does not monitor or analyze the expenditures of its regions and units in terms of the relative shares of contractor cleanup costs, site-specific support costs, and non-site-specific support costs; and (12) conducting such analyses would provide EPA with an additional tool to identify potential cost savings in Superfund spending.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In EPA's official response, the agency agreed with the recommendation and stated that it was in the process of implementing it. In an April 11, 2001, letter to GAO, EPA described several actions it has taken to implement GAO's recommendation. Specifically, EPA has organized Superfund obligation and expenditure data into site-specific and non-site-specific categories. EPA stated that information has proven useful to senior managers in allocating Superfund resources and evaluating the program. Consequently, this recommendation has been implemented and should be closed.

    Recommendation: In order to better identify opportunities for potential cost savings, the Administrator, EPA, should require the Assistant Administrator for Solid Waste and Emergency Response to expand the monitoring of Superfund expenditures to regularly analyze the breakdown of expenditures in terms of contractor cleanup work, site-specific spending, and non-site-specific spending. These analyses should compare such spending shares among EPA's regional and headquarters units, and significant differences should be further analyzed to identify the underlying causes and to determine whether cost-saving corrective actions are warranted.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency


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