Actions Needed To Strengthen The Federal Highway Administration's National Review Teams
On January 6, 2011, we issued our final report on the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) National Review Teams (NRT). Our objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of the NRTs in conducting national oversight and mitigating risks posed by the rapid infusion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars.
We found that NRTs were conducting thorough reviews in a consistent manner—yielding useful data. However, we identified vulnerabilities that demonstrated the need for increased management oversight, such as teams not including all NRT observations in summary reports that FHWA Division Offices use to identify instances where corrective actions are needed, and not properly recording corrective actions in FHWA's Recovery Act Database System (RADS). Without comprehensive summary reports and target action dates, FHWA cannot be certain that all corrective actions were taken. In addition, FHWA had not defined the critical role of its three Directors of Field Services in monitoring corrective action plans and resolving issues that could impact their prompt and effective implementation. We also found that FHWA had conducted limited analysis of NRT results to identify national trends and emergent risks or assess the effectiveness of ARRA risk response strategies.
We recommended that FHWA: (1) define the role of the Directors of Field Services to ensure proactive and consistent oversight of Division Offices' implementation of corrective action plans, including expectations for monitoring the plans and resolving issues that could impact their prompt and effective implementation; (2) require the NRTs to include in the summary reports all observations that contain recommendations or necessitate some follow-up by the Division Office or state; and (3) improve national-level data analysis by a) using additional methods to help identify national trends and new risks; b) modifying RADS to allow teams to more effectively classify observations as they conduct reviews; c) revising the not applicable response in RADS to distinguish between questions that do not apply to a project and those that the NRT could not determine; and d) requiring explanations for all RADS not applicable responses that indicate noncompliance with Federal requirements. We consider the actions FHWA has taken as being fully responsive to our recommendations.