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Rail News: Amtrak
GAO: Amtrak's financial reporting 'incomplete'
Amtrak's "inconsistent and incomplete" reporting of its financial data has hindered the passenger railroad's ability to demonstrate the progress it has made since it restructured itself into three business lines, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report published this week.
In 2012, Amtrak reorganized into the Northeast Corridor, state-supported and long-distance business lines, and established a structure to improve accountability for its performance. The GAO noted that the railroad's new strategic management system as implemented by the long-distance line reflects several leading performance management practices, such as linking line-of-business goals and initiatives to corporate-wide strategies, assigning personnel to execute the initiatives, and tracking the results.
However, Amtrak hasn't implemented the system across the remaining lines of business and departments. Better reporting, planning and financial information could enhance decision-making at Amtrak, the GAO concluded.
The report also noted that the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission — which Amtrak and its stakeholders developed to address the Northeast Corridor's critical infrastructure needs — lacks criteria for prioritizing projects in its five-year, $17.7 billion capital plan. As a result, Congress and states lack information to inform their decisions about whether to provide additional funding for those plans.
Additionally, the GAO said that Amtrak has not developed clear information detailing specific costs and activities related to operations for state-supported routes that would be funded by federal subsidies.
The GAO issued several recommendations for executive action. They include:
• prioritizing the adoption of the strategic management system in all lines of business and functional departments;
• externally reporting how Amtrak's initiatives meet the goals established under the strategic management system;
• being consistent in its monthly performance reports and the five-year financial plan to show all Amtrak revenue and expenses by major function for each line of business;
• ensuring that depreciation expenses are appropriately allocated to the lines of business once underlying capital asset data are determined reliable;
• delineating specific costs and activities for state-supported routes that are covered by the federal government and communicate that information to Congress, such as part of Amtrak's annual budget request; and
• prioritizing capital projects under the Northeast Corridor Commission.
Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.