Completing a Grants Management Framework Can Enhance FRA’s Administration of the HSIPR Program
On September 11, 2012, we issued a report that assessed the grants management framework the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) uses to administer its High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program (HSIPR). FRA has awarded and obligated almost $10.1 billion in grant funds in the three years since it set up HSIPR, and $8 billion of those funds were appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). We conducted this review as part of our ongoing ARRA oversight because HSIPR gave FRA significant new grant-making and oversight duties. Our review focused on FRA grants management with regard to three areas: (1) policies, procedures, and guidance; (2) workforce adequacy; and (3) program performance mechanisms. We found that although FRA completed a Grants Management Manual in April 2012, the Agency obligated $9.6 billion in grant funds while simultaneously developing the grant management policies and procedures outlined in the Manual. We also found that insufficient staffing and training further undermined FRA’s efforts to effectively administer and ensure the accountability of HSIPR grant funds across all its active programs. Finally, we found that FRA lacks effective mechanisms for assessing program and grantee performance. While FRA has outlined HSIPR goals in several documents, the goals are inconsistent across these documents and the goals’ performance measures are also not specific enough to determine overall program progress. We made five recommendations to FRA to improve HSIPR grant fund administration and accountability. The Agency concurred with all five recommendations and requested we close one, which we will consider upon receipt of further information to assess the actions FRA has taken to address the recommendation.