Public Transportation: FTA's Triennial Review Program Has Improved, But Assessments of Grantees' Performance Could Be Enhanced Page: 2 of 44
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Accountability* Integrity* Reliability
Highlights of GAO-09-603, a report to
Subcommittee on Highways and Transit,
Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure, House of Representatives
Why GAO Did This Study
The Federal Transit Administration
(FTA) oversees about $5.5 billion in
federal funds each year to transit
agencies serving urban areas
(grantee), in part through its
triennial review program, which
evaluates grantee adherence to
federal requirements at least once
every 3 years. GAO recommended
in a 1998 oversight report that FTA
improve the program.
The subcommittee requested that
GAO review this program. GAO
identified (1) the extent to which
triennial reviews indicate that
grantees met applicable federal
requirements from fiscal years 2000
through 2008; (2) the strengths and
weaknesses of the triennial review
process; and (3) FTA's
performance measures for the
triennial review and the extent to
which they meet key attributes of
successful performance measures.
GAO addressed these objectives by
analyzing oversight data on 424
grantees that had three triennial
reviews, reviewing triennial review
reports and guidance, assessing
FTA's performance measures; and
interviewing FTA headquarters and
regional officials, contractors who
conduct the reviews, and grantees.
GAO recommends that FTA
analyze oversight data to enhance
grantees' performance, strengthen
the triennial review process, and
improve performance measures.
The Department of Transportation
reviewed a draft of this report and
generally agreed with its contents
and with GAO's recommendations.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on GAO-09-603.
For more information, contact Phillip R. Herr
at (202) 512-2834 or email@example.com.
FTA's Triennial Review Program Has Improved, But
Assessments of Grantees' Performance Could Be
What GAO Found
GAO's analysis of FTA's triennial review oversight data found that over two-
thirds of the 424 grantees analyzed have not consistently improved overall
performance in terms of meeting more federal requirements from fiscal years
2000 through 2008. Fifty-one percent of grantees had mixed results in meeting
requirements and 17 percent consistently met fewer requirements; while 31
percent consistently met more requirements-one of the goals of the triennial
review program. (See figure 3). Executives from three grantees that met most
requirements attributed their performance to, among other things, having job
descriptions that link employee responsibilities to the triennial review-a
practice they said contributed to a culture of accountability. During the same
time, grantees had the greatest number of findings in 5 of 23 triennial review
areas, including the procurement and drug and alcohol testing areas. While
FTA helps grantees address findings, additional efforts to identify the
underlying causes and the severity of findings could further benefit grantees.
FTA's triennial review program uses some strong management practices-
having a well-defined process, using an information system to monitor
grantees, and issuing reports timely. Still, two areas could be strengthened.
First, while FTA is legislatively required to conduct a complete review of
grantees' adherence to federal requirements at least once every 3 years, GAO
identified a few instances where documentation does not clearly show that
FTA reviewed all requirement areas. For example, 10 triennial review reports
for 2008 showed that the drug and alcohol program area was "not reviewed."
FTA's practice is to review all areas, regardless of documentation, but
because FTA's guidance is not clear about how to document the review of
areas where FTA has conducted a related special review in the prior two
years, a few grantees may not be reviewed for 5 years. FTA plans to revise its
guidance to avoid ambiguity. Second, FTA is aware of the burden oversight
reviews place on grantees and works to limit this burden. However, in a
limited number of cases, FTA did not coordinate its special oversight reviews
with the triennial review schedule, which may place undue burden on a few
grantees receiving multiple oversight reviews in the same fiscal year.
FTA's two timeliness performance measures for assessing the triennial review
program-(1) closing 80 percent of grantees' deficient findings within 30 days
of their due date and (2) issuing 95 percent of the final triennial review reports
within 30 days of completing a review-meet some, but not all key attributes
of successful measures. (See figure 6). Although both measures link
throughout the organization, have measurable targets, are clearly stated, and
do not overlap, the "close findings" measure does not meet the objectivity and
reliability attribute. For example, data inaccuracies in past "close findings"
data raised questions about the reliability of the measure. Also, both measures
do not assess the core program activity to evaluate grantees' performance or
governmentwide priorities, such as the quality of the triennial review program,
and thus, as a whole, are not balanced, making it difficult for managers to not
overemphasize one priority at the expense of others.
.United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Public Transportation: FTA's Triennial Review Program Has Improved, But Assessments of Grantees' Performance Could Be Enhanced, report, June 30, 2009; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc296507/m1/2/: accessed December 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.