A new audit report from USDA's Office of Inspector General found wide-ranging problems in the way the Farm Service Agency administered the Collection, Harvest, Storage and Transportation component under the new Biomass Crop Assistance Program. Inconsistent application of program provisions across State and county offices, varying methods for measuring biomass moisture levels, inconsistent use of program forms, and data errors were some of the problems cited by the OIG report.
According to OIG these problems occurred because FSA, in an effort to quickly implement the program to comply with a deadline established by Presidential Directive, was unable, in the limited timeframe, to develop a handbook, specialized forms, or a computer support system that was suited to the specific requirements of the CHST program.
OIG recommended that FSA develop a program handbook setting forth policies and procedures governing program administration; forms specifically tailored to facilitate day-to-day administration and capture relevant program data; and a data system with applied edit checks and a designed structure to facilitate data validation, management reporting, and data analysis.
In response to the audit, Philip Sharp, Acting Director of the Operations Review and Analysis staff of FSA. says a final rule was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 27, 2010, and new internal guidance, forms, and software are scheduled to be released for matching payments in early January 2011 which will satisfy the three OIG recommendations.
"As of Dec. 14 FSA has received all required OMB clearance to make the program available and intends to do so immediately," Sharp said. "In the interim period before the new software is available, FSA intends to deliver the matching payments portion of BCAP using the same forms and information systems as were used for previous CHST implementation."
Use of the old forms is not likely to be widespread because biomass conversion facilities must first become "qualified" before an eligible material owner could apply for a matching payment.