GAO recommends DOT and DHS establish monitoring guidelines

The Government Accountability Office recently recommended that the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the DHS direct the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and FEMA to establish guidelines to monitor, evaluate and report on collaborative efforts.

The GAO began the study that led to its report after the president signed the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 (DRAA) to provide approximately $50.5 billion in federal aid for expenses related to Hurricane Sandy. Approximately $13 billion of the DRAA was appropriated for surface transportation relief.

While FTA and FEMA have a memorandum of agreement to assist transit providers during emergencies, they are limited in their ability to delineate specific responsibilities and roles for future disasters.

"This limit is because while FEMA receives funding on an ongoing basis, FTA, to date, has only received a supplemental appropriation for Hurricane Sandy and does not know what resources it will have for future disasters," the GAO said. "Because FTA and FEMA have the authority to fund many of the same activities by law, transit agencies may experience confusion when seeking assistance under some circumstances."

The GAO sought to determine the extent to which FTA and FEMA have implemented their memorandum of agreement to help transit agencies. It also looked into the progress DOT made in allocating, obligating and disbursing DRAA surface transportation funds and addressed how FTA's Public Transportation Emergency Relief program compares to emergency relief programs through FEMA and the Federal Highway Administration.

The GAO said FEMA and FTA have relied on informal communication in regards to their collaborative efforts.

"As GAO has previously concluded, creating a means to evaluate the results of collaborative efforts can enhance and sustain them, and informal communications between federal agencies do not ensure that collaboration is effective," the GAO said. "Establishing more formal monitoring and evaluation of combined efforts could help FTA and FEMA ensure effective collaboration."