The Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest public power authority in the U.S., broke federal policy by using its fleet of helicopters without proper documentation, according to a report from the agency’s Inspector General’s office.
As a federal agency, TVA is subject to federal travel regulations when using its fleet. According to policy, TVA must complete proper documentation before any flight to prove it will be used in accordance with the utility’s mission, including conducting a cost comparison analysis, providing a business justification, and gaining authorization prior to use. But according to the report, TVR failed to document these steps before flights.
An analysis of 161 passenger transportation flights showed that 19 flights did not appear to be cost beneficial due to the short duration of the flights, in some cases only saving 15 to 24 minutes compared to driving.
The chargeback rate for flights is based on pilot salary, fuel, and maintenance. Depending on the helicopter, it ranges from $950 to $2,000 per flight hour.
The report also noted a lack of sufficient authorization. One employee who reports to the CEO approved their own flights, and although verbal approval was allowed, supervisors were supposed to provide written authorization after the flight.
The Inspector General’s office recommended that TVA requires all necessary documentation to be provided prior to each flight, and that TVA’s travel policies are updated to emphasize the need for documentation.
In response, TVA management noted that the agency is in the process of replacing its flight scheduling software with one that better meets its justification and documentation needs, with implementation slated for the end of the calendar year. Management also plans to revise its helicopter use policy to provide more detailed guidance on the schedule and documentation processes.
TVA’s fleet includes seven helicopters, along with an additional helicopter purchased earlier this year and expected for delivery in December.
The full audit is available on TVA’s website.