DOT management challenges identified by IG report
Dec 16, 2003 12:00 PM
Hazardous materials safety and security, financial accountability, and recruiting and retaining qualified personnel are among the management challenges impacting the Department of Transportation (DOT), according to a report recently issued from the Office of the Inspector General (IG).
"These management challenges are complicated by the current government and transportation environment: We have entered a period of deficit spending; trust fund revenues are down; program needs are up; and the department has pending reauthorizations in intercity passenger rail, highways, motor carriers, and transit," the report notes.
On the subject of hazmat safety and security, DOT was advised to take aggressive steps to coordinate hazardous materials inspection and enforcement efforts among the DOT agencies.
"This would include an education program and inspection/enforcement strategies for dealing with a common shipper who causes problems across several of the department’s modes, such as a noncompliant HAZMAT shipment that uses motor carrier, rail, and air to move from origin to destination.
Another subject touched on by the report involves financial accountability, including advice to free up millions of dollars in inactive obligations of idle funds.
This has been a subject that tank truck carriers have long followed that relates to the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA). The agency collects registration fees paid by companies that transport hazardous materials, and until this year had retained the funds in a growing account. The National Tank Truck Carriers and other associations repeatedly filed lawsuits to stop the practice of retaining the idle funds. Finally this year, RSPA reduced the fee and is to re-evaluate the balance and fee levels during the 2005-06 registration year.
The IG report recognized DOT for "progress in the last year in this area, but still has a long way to go to strengthen three important financial management activities."
In addition to freeing up the money in inactive obligations of idle funds, the IG advised DOT to improve oversight of cost-reimbursable contracts, which have few inherent protections against cost overruns, and to complete implementation of the new Delphi financial management system that will enable the department to strengthen financial controls and generate reliable financial reports.
The report also said that DOT should consider whether it will be at serious risk of not being able to recruit and retain top talent, noting that a large percentage of DOT staff are expected to retire or reach retirement eligibility in the next few years. The report points out that none of the DOT agencies, except FAA, have personnel rules and pay flexibility that have been granted to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. "This may place DOT at a disadvantage at the very time the department is expected to lose large numbers of experienced staff and needs to recruit top talent to replace them," the report said.
DOT was commended for making "real progress on most of its management challenges, either through implementing changes or by developing detailed plans to do so in the near future."
The report points out that DOT has taken aggressive action to prevent drivers from obtaining commercial driver licenses through kickbacks or other fraudulent schemes; strengthened the system used to identify high-risk motor carriers for review; implemented the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act to facilitate proactive identification of vehicle safety defects; and continues to support programs for primary enforcement of seat belt laws and prevention of drug-impaired driving.
To see the report in its entirety, click here for the IG Web site.