District of Columbia – September 20, 2010

The content below was excerpted from the District of Columbia Appendix (PDF, 38 pages) of GAO's most recent bimonthly review of the Recovery Act.[1]

What We Did

We reviewed the following programs funded under the Recovery Act–the State Energy Program (SEP), the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program (EECBG), the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), and three education programs. We began work on SEP and EECBG because services and projects were just getting underway for these programs. We continued our work on WAP and three education programs to update the status of these programs. For descriptions and requirements of the programs covered in our review, see appendix XVIII of GAO-10-1000SP. Our work focused on how the funds were being used and monitored, how safeguards were being implemented, and issues that were specific to each program. To gain an understanding of the District's efforts to oversee and monitor the use of Recovery Act funds, we talked to the District's Office of the Inspector General (DC OIG) about its oversight role and audits related to Recovery Act funds. In addition to our program-specific reviews, we also updated information on the District's fiscal situation and how Recovery Act funds are being used for budget stabilization, as well as the District's experience in meeting Recovery Act reporting requirements.[2]

What We FoundBack to top

State Energy Program and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program

Under the Recovery Act, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded the District over $31 million in funding through SEP and EECBG. The District Department of the Environment (DDOE) administers both programs for the District. In April 2009, the District received the initial award notice for approximately $22 million in Recovery Act SEP funding, although the full funding award was not available to DDOE until September 2009. Although approximately 2 percent ($366,513) of funds have been expended as of June 30, 2010, DDOE officials expect all non-personnel Recovery Act SEP funds to be obligated by September 30, 2010 and approximately 40 percent to be expended by that date. DDOE plans to use the majority of SEP funds for energy efficiency retrofits at various District government and public school buildings. The EECBG program, funded for the first time by the Recovery Act, was created to assist state, local, and tribal governments in implementing strategies to reduce fossil fuel emissions, reduce total energy use, and improve energy efficiency in the transportation, building, and other appropriate sectors. In December 2009, the District was awarded almost $9.6 million in Recovery Act funding for the EECBG program. According to DDOE officials, the District has obligated nearly all of the $9.6 million of EECBG funds as of June 25, 2010. However, less than 0.5 percent has been expended, as of June 30, 2010–mainly for expenditures on personnel costs, as projects did not begin until late July 2010. The majority of EECBG funds have been obligated to District facilities, such as libraries and recreation centers, to provide energy improvements.

Weatherization Assistance Program

DOE allocated about $8 million in Recovery Act weatherization funds to the District for a 3-year period. DDOE–the agency responsible for administering the program for the District–did not begin to spend its operational weatherization funding until February 2010. However, as of July 30, 2010, DDOE obligated all of its Recovery Act funding for weatherization and has completed weatherization for 230 homes, according to DDOE officials. These officials stated that the District will spend all its weatherization funding by March 31, 2011. DDOE expects to exceed its initial goal of weatherizing 785 homes using its Recovery Act funding, but does not have an updated estimate at this time.

Education

The U.S. Department of Education allocated $143.6 million in Recovery Act funds to the District from the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF); for grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, as amended (IDEA) Part B; and for grants under Title I, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA). A large percentage of these funds are being used to pay employee salaries. The Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) continues to monitor the District's local educational agencies (LEA)[3] utilizing the monitoring protocol it developed in March 2010, which includes conducting on-site monitoring visits and desk reviews. As of June 2010, OSSE completed its ESEA grant on-site monitoring visits for the 2009-2010 school year, consisting of visits to 18 LEAs. Concurrently, OSSE visited 3 LEAs receiving IDEA Part B grant funds, and completed 19 desk reviews of LEAs receiving Recovery Act funds–all of which OSSE officials considered to be higher-risk subrecipients. According to OSSE, LEAs generally complied with Recovery Act requirements, but some LEAs had inconsistencies with specific record management practices. OSSE has required these LEAs to improve their record management practices.

Accountability efforts

As of July 14, 2010, the DC OIG has initiated one audit specifically related to the use of Recovery Act funds involving construction contracts at the District Department of Transportation that were awarded under the Recovery Act. This audit is expected to be completed by spring 2011. Other planned Recovery Act audits have not yet begun because of lack of resources. Additionally, the District completed its fiscal year 2009 Single Audit report on June 29, 2010. The 2009 audit–the first Single Audit for the District that included Recovery Act programs–identified 5 significant deficiencies and 17 material weaknesses related to controls over programs that received Recovery Act funds, including the Medicare program. However, a senior official from the Office of the Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) noted that the deficiencies and weaknesses were not a result of noncompliance with Recovery Act requirements.

The District's fiscal situation

Additional Recovery Act funds have helped support certain District education, human services, and technology programs. District officials told us that the District has received over $56 million in Recovery Act funding since we last spoke with them in April 2010 ' about $36 million in noncompetitive grants and about $20 million in competitive grants. According to the District's Chief of Budget Execution, the infusion of Recovery Act funds has helped mitigate the negative effects of the recession on the District's budget by providing time to adjust for the decline in revenues, which allowed the District to avoid making drastic cuts to services and programs. Although the District continues to face fiscal challenges, there are signs that the District's economy is starting to recover. In June 2010, the District's Chief Financial Officer reported that the revenue estimates for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 remain unchanged from the estimate made in the previous quarter, noting that there are indicators of economic recovery.

Full September ReportBack to top

Recovery Act: Opportunities to Improve Management and Strengthen Accountability over States' and Localities' Uses of Funds
GAO-10-999
Recovery Act: Opportunities to Improve Management and Strengthen Accountability over States' and Localities' Uses of Funds
(Appendixes)
GAO-10-1000SP
  • [1] Pub. L. No. 111-5, 123 Stat. 115 (Feb. 17, 2009).
  • [2] Recipients of Recovery Act funds are required to report quarterly on a number of measures, including the use of funds and estimates of number of jobs created and retained. Recovery Act, div. A, § 1512. We refer to the reports required by section 1512 of the Recovery Act as recipient reports.
  • [3] The District has 58 LEAs, including 57 charter school LEAs and the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS).
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William O. Jenkins

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