"There is a growing need for real improvement in our infrastructure in every corner of this country," Vitter said. "It is essential that grant projects are selected on a transparent, merit-based set of criteria, not the voting trends of the region. I'm concerned that politics have entered into the process with the TIGER grants, which is why I'll continue advocating for reforms."
The TIGER grants started in the controversial $831 billion "stimulus" funding that passed Congress in 2009. In 2011, GAO reported transparency concerns with the program saying "DOT cannot definitively demonstrate the basis for its award selections, particularly the reasons why recommended projects were selected for half the awards over highly recommended ones." According to news reports, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is expected to announce the latest round of TIGER grant opportunities on Friday. The DOT will reportedly make about $475 million in grants available for this fifth TIGER round.
Earlier this month Vitter wrote to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) demanding transparency of the selection methods used for selecting who receives a TIGER grant. Vitter wants to know how applications are advanced and selected and to ensure the process is done in a transparent manner.
A copy of Vitter's letter to the GAO is below. Click here to view a pdf.
April 3, 2013
The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro
Comptroller General of the United States
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G. Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20548
Dear Mr. Dodaro,
I write to request a review of the Department of Transportation's process and selection methods used for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) Program. The TIGER Program provides an opportunity for the U.S. Department of Transportation to invest in critical infrastructure such road, rail, transit and port projects that promise to achieve national objectives. Since 2009, Congress has appropriated over $3 billion for four rounds of TIGER grants in order to fund projects that have a significant national or regional impact.
After the first round of awards, GAO and the DOT OIG raised various concerns as to how the TIGER applications were selected for award. Since that time, these highly competitive grants have continued to garner significant interest as a way to address infrastructure needs throughout the country. Thus, it is increasingly imperative that the projects are selected on a transparent, merit-based set of criteria.
I respectfully ask that the following concerns be examined with regard to the subsequent three rounds of TIGER awards. First, how were grant applications advanced and selected for award? Are the key decisions for all major steps in the review process being documented and shared in a transparent manner? Are the benefits that awardees identified in their applications such as leveraging funding from other partners being achieved? Lastly, has the DOT assessed the success of individual projects and the overall impact of the TIGER program?
Thank you for your attention to this matter and if I can be of assistance please contact my staff at (202) 224-6176.
Senator David Vitter