In April 2007, the Transportation Research Board released Research Results Digest 314. The digest summarizes the results of NCHRP Project 20-65(7), “State DOT Staff Resources for Administering Federal Public Transportation Programs.” The research results included the following: “There is increasing state responsibility for administering transit programs. In major transportation legislative bills since 1991 – ISTEA, TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU – an infusion of funds has been channeled to the transit industry and states are being expected to administer more and more of these funds.”
In FY1997, federal transit programs administered by the States totaled $205.5 million. By 2007, the total had reached $817.1 million (includes Sections 5310, 5311, 5340, 5316 and 5317 and RTAP programs.) Administering federal and state grants takes place on three levels:
Managing the relationship with the federal government
Managing planning activities required by state government (legislative, budgeting, etc) and
Managing the relationship with regional and local subgrantees, as well as the reporting, oversight and grant processes with regional and local subgrantees.
Subgrantee monitoring and compliance reviews tend to be areas that take a considerable amount of staff time. There is variation in the level of effort each state commits to administration of federal grants that may be explained by differences in regional office interpretations of the level of effort required at the state level. “It is clear that some states do less oversight on federal programs than others.”
As this report makes clear, a significant function for State DOTs is promoting and monitoring compliance with federal regulations among the State’s subrecipients under numerous federal grant programs. In addition, many State DOTs have state funded transit programs that require compliance monitoring and this compliance monitoring is often intermingled with federally required oversight.
According to FTA’s website, the FTA evaluates grantee adherence to grant administration requirements through a comprehensive oversight program. FTA’s oversight mechanism include State Management Reviews and oversight reviews in specific areas when the grantee is either participating in a special program (e.g. Project Management Oversight reviews for grantees receiving Section 5309 New Starts funding) or is at-risk or out of compliance in a specific area (i.e. procurement systems or financial systems).
States use various formal and informal tools, including on-site visits, training, documentation reviews, checklists, etc., to meet its subrecipient oversight obligations. Given the increasing pressure being placed on states to deliver federal grant funds, State DOTs could benefit from reviewing compliance monitoring tools used in other states. State DOTs could also benefit from an assessment of the effectiveness of tools being used and the development of new (model) tools derived from some of the better tools in use.
The objectives of this research are to develop a handbook that includes: a) compliance monitoring tools currently in use by State DOTs in oversight of their subrecipients of federal funds (can also include oversight of recipients of state grants); b) an evaluation of those tools and c) drafts of new tools (i.e., model tools) derived from the evaluation of existing tools.