GAO urged to investigate DOT’s cross-border spending

| 3/11/2008

Four members of Congress want the Government Accountability Office to investigate the Department of Transportation’s spending of money to conduct the cross-border trucking program.

Two Senators and two members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to David Walker, the comptroller general of the GAO, requesting the investigation into the DOT’s expenditures. The four contend the DOT has violated the Antideficiency Act by proceeding with the program.

The letter, dated March 10, contends that the funding to the program was cut off by a provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008. Despite what members of Congress contend was an end to the funding of the cross-border program, the DOT has continued to expand the program.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND; Sen. Arlen Specter, R-PA; Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN; and Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, all played key roles in the passage of the legislation that they contend cut off funding to the program.

In their letter to the GAO comptroller general, the four lawmakers point to the “plain language” of the provision, along with the legislative history in debates in both the House and Senate, as well as the conference report that led to the final appropriations bill as proof that members of Congress intended to stop the program.

“Despite the prohibition on the use of funds for a cross-border trucking demonstration program, the Department of Transportation has persisted in going forward with its program, and has granted new operating authority to additional Mexican trucking companies since (the appropriations bill) was signed into law,” the letter states.

The four urged the GAO investigate the DOT’s actions and “issue a prompt opinion” as to whether a violation of the Antideficiency Act has occurred.

According to the GAO Web site, the Antideficiency Act is one of the major laws through which Congress exercises its constitutional control of the public purse. It evolved over a period of time in response to various abuses.

In short, the Act prohibits:

  • Any government agency from spending more money than is appropriated by law to the agency or to a specific program;
  • Obligating the government to pay money for a specific purpose before the funds are appropriated by Congress;
  • Accepting voluntary services for the U.S., or employing personal services not authorized by law, except in cases of emergency involving the safety of human life or the protection of property; or
  • Making obligations or expenditures in excess of what has been appropriated by Congress or in excess of the amount permitted by agency regulations.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor