Fish and Wildlife Service:

Use of Federal Aid Programs' Administrative Funds

T-RCED-00-262: Published: Jul 19, 2000. Publicly Released: Jul 19, 2000.

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James E. Wells, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS) management and oversight of the administrative funds associated with the Wildlife Restoration Program and, to a lesser extent, with the Sport Fish Restoration Program.

GAO noted that: (1) funds provided for the Wildlife Restoration Program and the Sport Fish Restoration Program, are derived from federal excise taxes from the sale of firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, and other items; (2) the core mission of these programs is to distribute funds to states and other qualified government recipients for the purposes of wildlife and sport fish restoration; (3) a portion of the funds can be used by FWS Office of Federal Aid for the programs' administration and implementation--up to 8 percent for wildlife and up to 6 percent for sport fish; (4) of the roughly $550 million these programs received in fiscal year 1998, about $31 million was used for administration and implementation--$13.5 million for wildlife and $17.4 million for sport fish; (5) numerous problems exist with the way administrative funds are used and managed; (6) GAO believes that these problems led to a culture of permissive spending within the Office of Federal Aid; (7) at the time of the September 1999 testimony, GAO believed that there were at least three primary options to consider for controlling the use of administrative funds; (8) first, the Office of Federal Aid could have been given additional time by Congress to correct the problems GAO identified; (9) in August 1999, FWS said that it had taken or was taking a number of corrective actions including continuing with its reconciliation efforts to track the use of administrative funds; (10) a second approach could place legislative limits on how FWS spends administrative funds; (11) for example, the spending of administrative funds could be limited to functions necessary for the Office of Federal Aid to carry out its most basic responsibilities, namely to: (a) administer the formula for getting grant funds to states; (b) review specific project proposals from these entities and (c) audit these entities' use of grand funds for compliance with existing legislation and program goals, and (12) a third option would be to require FWS to use appropriated funds to administer the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration programs and devote all excise tax revenues to state and other qualified government recipients' grants.

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