July 10, 2019
Opportunities Exist To Improve FRA and Volpe’s Acquisition and Use of Oversight Contractors
What We Looked At
In 2009, Congress appropriated $10.5 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail (HSIPR) Program. To implement the program and fund the HSIPR projects, FRA took on new oversight responsibilities and entered into cooperative agreements with State departments of transportation and other entities. FRA also established an intra-agency agreement (IAA) with the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center (Volpe). The IAA allowed FRA to implement its Monitoring and Technical Assistance Program with Volpe’s assistance and acquire Monitoring and Technical Assistance Contractors (MTAC) to provide oversight support. In November 2013, Volpe competitively awarded 11 master contracts, with an estimated value of $75 million, for MTAC services. Given the significant funds involved and FRA’s expanded oversight responsibilities, we initiated this audit to assess (1) FRA’s acquisition of MTACs through the Volpe Center and (2) FRA’s management and use of MTAC oversight services for HSIPR projects.
What We Found
Volpe’s acquisition and management of the MTACs did not always follow Federal requirements or guidance. For example, Volpe prepared independent government cost estimates without adequate support, and awarded an MTAC master contract and three task orders valued at $7.6 million to a contractor that lacked a current audit of its accounting system. Also, adding steps to its invoice review process could help Volpe ensure that it pays allowable and reasonable costs for MTAC work. In addition, FRA lacked both the necessary oversight tools and a consistent reporting and recommendation tracking process to ensure effective use of MTAC services when it launched the HSIPR program. As result, the MTACs did not consistently document oversight reviews and much of their work was not formally reported. This in turn impeded FRA and Volpe’s ability to realize the full benefit of the MTACs’ oversight.
We made 11 recommendations to improve FRA and Volpe’s acquisition and use of MTACs, and the Department concurred with all of them. We consider these recommendations resolved but open pending completion of the Department’s actions.