SPECIAL REPORT: Audit of cross-border program begins

| 6/25/2007

Monday, June 25, 2007 – While public groups already issued a report card on the Department of Transportation’s readiness to open the border, another big report card is officially on its way.

The Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General initiated an audit of the DOT’s compliance with Section 350(a) of the 2002 transportation appropriations act. Section 6901 of the war supplemental appropriations act mandated completion of an audit before a cross-border program begins.

The Inspector General previously signed off on eight provisions of Section 350. Then-Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta certified compliance with the remaining provisions in Section 350 in 2002, as required.

With the passage of a supplemental appropriations act this past month, Congress opted to strengthen the requirements of Section 350 by requiring the Inspector General verify compliance with each of the requirements of the subsection.

The DOT has not faired so well in the Inspector General’s previous audits. While the IG did sign off on the mandated eight provisions, the Inspector General was critical of the compliance of DOT with other provisions of Section 350.

Among the provisions under review in the audit are compliance with hours-of-service regulations, compliance with U.S. drug and alcohol testing procedures, electronic verification of Mexican CDLs and many more.

The most recent audit into Section 350 conducted in 2005 took the Inspector General more than six months before the final report was issued. If DOT complies fully with Section 6901 of the supplemental appropriations act, the opening of the border would be on hold until the audit is complete.

However, rumor in Washington, DC, and press reports out of Mexico indicate the Bush administration is pushing forward for a launch of the program sometime as early as July or August.

Melissa Delaney, a spokeswoman with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, told “Land Line Now” on XM Satellite Radio that FMCSA staffers are confident of a favorable audit.

She credited the agency’s optimism on Inspector General annual reviews – conducted each year since the passage of Section 350. However, previous audits and reports all noted possible shortcomings within the agency. And, a report for what should have been a review in 2006 is not included on the Inspector General’s Web site.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor

Staff writer Reed Black contributed to this report.