According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), over 36,000 motor vehicle related deaths occurred in the United States in 2018, making up 97 percent of surface transportation fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administers the Highway Safety Grant Program, which awards approximately $600 million annually in grants to States for safety initiatives that combat highway crashes. In 2014, we reported that NHTSA did not effectively oversee highway safety grants in certain areas, and lacked strategies for addressing systemic issues, such as $539 million in overdue unexpended grant funds spanning 7 fiscal years. We recommended that NHTSA revise the guidance for its regional offices and enhance its grant monitoring tools. The Office of Management and Budget has since issued its Uniform Administrative Requirements for Federal Awards, which covers NHTSA’s program.
Additionally, recent OIG investigations into the program’s law enforcement funding mechanism—which allows NHTSA to reimburse States’ law enforcement overtime costs for work related to NHTSA-funded safety programs, such as impaired driving enforcement—have resulted in several convictions for the illegal collection of overtime pay.
Due to the significant amount of annual funding to the program and the issues our office has identified, we are initiating this audit to assess NHTSA’s updated oversight policies and procedures for the Highway Safety Grant Program. Specifically, we will determine the extent to which NHTSA’s oversight controls (1) mitigate risks, including those we identified in our previous audits and investigations, and (2) cover grantees’ compliance with requirements for Federal awards.