September 30, 2019
DOT Needs To Strengthen Its Oversight of IAAs With Volpe
What We Looked At
The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center—a component within the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology—serves as an internal resource for research, development, testing, evaluation, analysis, and related activities. Between fiscal years 2015 and 2017, the Department’s Office of the Secretary of Transportation and its Operating Administrations (OAs) obtained services from Volpe through 901 intra-agency agreements totaling $865.8 million. In 2010, DOT noted inconsistencies among all of the Department’s IAAs and reiterated its existing policy for the proper form and content of the agreements. Accordingly, we initiated this audit to assess DOT’s and its OAs’ policies and procedures for (1) entering into IAAs with Volpe and (2) overseeing the deliverables and expenditure of funds for those IAAs.
What We Found
DOT’s Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST) and its Operating Administrations have limited documentation to show how they plan their use of IAAs with Volpe; and some Operating Administrations have adopted practices for executing Volpe IAAs that do not meet departmental requirements. We also found that neither OST nor the OAs have established specific guidance for evaluating Volpe’s performance on IAA projects or sharing that information among the OAs. In addition, we found that OST and the OAs do not consistently comply with departmental requirements for overseeing IAA funds, such as reconciling financial records and promptly deobligating unused funds.
We made eight recommendations to the Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs and one recommendation to the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology on ways to improve planning, financial management, and sharing of performance information on Volpe IAAs, including a recommendation to determine whether nearly $6 million could be deobligated. When projected across our audit universe, implementing this recommendation could potentially put up to $33.3 million in funds to better use. In response to our nine recommendations, OST concurred with recommendations 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9 and partially concurred with recommendation 5. For the partial concurrence, OST agrees to take the recommended action but does not agree with the amount of funds we identified that could potentially be put to better use.