- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
The report recommends steps that the office believes the agency should take to improve the transparency and accuracy of its reports to Congress and the public when reporting on the effectiveness of its enforcement programs.
According to the report, total penalties assessed by the agency, when adjusted for inflation, declined from $240.6 million to $137.7 million between fiscal years 1998 and 2007.
The GAO identified three shortcomings in how the EPA calculates and reports penalty information to Congress and the public:
- Overstating the impact of the enforcement programs by reporting penalties assessed against violators rather than actual penalties received by the U.S. Treasury.
- Reducing the precision of trend analyses by reporting nominal rather than inflation-adjusted penalties, thereby understating past accomplishments.
- Understating the influence of its enforcement programs by excluding the portion of penalties awarded to states in federal cases.
The report also identified several shortcomings in the way that EPA calculates and reports this information, noting the failure to disclose annual amounts of injunctive relief and possibly tainted estimates.