Audit Report: OAI-M-16-01

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October 22, 2015

Office of Science's Bioenergy Research Centers

In September 2007, Office of Science’s (Science’s) Office of Biological and Environmental Research established three Bioenergy Research Centers (Centers) to focus the most advanced biotechnology-based resources on the challenges of biofuel production.  Science has committed nearly $793.5 million to the Centers over a 10-year period.  Each Center was provided $10 million in start-up funding and receives about $25 million per year.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided an additional $13.5 million in funding.  The ultimate goal for the three Centers is to provide the fundamental science to underpin a cost-effective, advanced cellulosic biofuels industry.

Nothing came to our attention to indicate that Science’s management of the Centers was not generally effective.  The Centers were generally satisfying the specific Federal, Department of Energy (Department), and programmatic requirements that we evaluated in our review.  We found, for example, that Federal officials required management plans for each Center, the Centers were reporting that they were meeting performance goals within scheduled time frames, and each of the Centers had been externally reviewed on an annual basis since being established.  Although our review did not identify material concerns, we identified costs at the three Centers that warrant management attention:  $303,796 for Animal Care and Use Committee costs allocated to BESC and not to all other organizations benefiting from the services and $2,275 for travel costs at two Centers.  Additionally, we found that Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s policy for providing refreshments at meetings exceeded the Department’s guidance for refreshment costs.

Topic: Management & Administration