JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
Section 106(b) of the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA), 92 Stat. 1926, 29 U. S. C. § 816(b) (1976 ed., Supp. V), provides that the Secretary of Labor
Before its repeal in 1982,
CETA grants the Secretary broad authority to ensure that CETA funds are used in accordance with the statute and regulations. The Secretary may audit a grant recipient, and in connection with such an audit may inspect records, question employees, and enter any premises upon which the program is conducted. § 835(a)(2). Any interested person, such as a participating employee, may file a complaint with the Secretary alleging that a grant recipient is failing to comply with the applicable standards. § 816.
Section 106(b), 29 U. S. C. § 816(b), which is the provision at issue in this lawsuit, requires that whenever the Secretary
Respondent is a county in the State of Washington that received CETA funds from 1974 through 1977 pursuant to two separate grants. On September 19, 1978, the Labor Department's Office of Special Investigations filed an audit report concerning respondent's first grant. That Department's Grant Officer issued a final determination on February 13, 1981, disallowing approximately $110,000 in costs incurred by respondent on the grounds that those costs related to employees who were not eligible to participate in a CETA program. On December 11, 1978, the Department's Office of the Inspector General filed an audit report with respect to the second grant, again raising questions concerning ineligible
Respondent sought review of both final determinations before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) of the Labor Department. The ALJ disallowed the smaller sums of $108,000 and $265,000, respectively, in the two cases. In both cases, respondent argued that the Secretary could not order respondent to repay these sums because the Grant Officer's final determination had been issued considerably more than 120 days after submission of the initial audit report. While conceding that the Secretary did not lose jurisdiction to make a determination after 120 days had passed, respondent argued that it had suffered prejudice because of the lengthy delay. The ALJ rejected this claim in both cases, finding no specific instances of prejudice.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. Pierce County v. United States, By and Through Dept. of Labor, 759 F.2d 1398 (1985). That court had previously decided, in City of Edmonds v. United States Dept. of Labor, 749 F.2d 1419 (1985), that Congress, in enacting § 106(b), had intended to prevent the Secretary from acting on a complaint unless the Secretary's final determination was issued within 120 days from his receipt of the complaint. In the present case, the Court of Appeals decided that the statutory command to the Secretary to issue a final determination "not later than 120 days after receiving the complaint" also required the Secretary to make a determination within 120 days when the allegation or belief is a result of the Secretary's own audit rather than a third-party complaint.
As Judge Friendly noted in a case raising the identical issue, the proposition that Congress intended the Secretary to lose the authority to recover misspent funds 120 days after learning of the misuse "is not, to say the least, of the sort that commands instant assent." St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, New York v. Brock, 769 F.2d 37, 41 (CA2 1985) (footnote omitted), cert. pending, No. 85-949. We must therefore examine carefully the statutory language and legislative history to determine whether Congress did indeed desire this somewhat incongruous result.
The Ninth Circuit held that the plain meaning of the statutory command that the Secretary "shall" take action within 120 days was sufficient to demonstrate that Congress meant to bar further action after that period had expired. City of Edmonds, 749 F. 2d, at 1421. Noting that "[s]tatutory language is generally construed according to the plain meaning of the words used by Congress `absent a clearly expressed
The Secretary, however, notes that while § 106(b) speaks in mandatory language, it nowhere specifies the consequences of a failure to make a final determination within 120 days. The Secretary relies on a line of precedent in the Courts of Appeals to the effect that Government agencies do not lose jurisdiction for failure to comply with statutory time limits unless the statute " `both expressly requires an agency or public official to act within a particular time period and specifies a consequence for failure to comply with the provision.' " St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, supra, at 41 (quoting Fort Worth National Corp. v. Federal Savings & Loan Ins. Corp., 469 F.2d 47, 58 (CA5 1972)).
This Court has never expressly adopted the Circuit precedent upon which the Secretary relies. However, our
Respondent suggests that statutes setting deadlines for agency action should be interpreted to permit the agency to proceed after the deadline has expired only when agency inaction would prejudice a private citizen seeking some sort of
Looking to other sources of congressional intent, we have found nothing in the history of the 1978 amendments to CETA, which added the 120-day deadline, to suggest that Congress intended to impose a jurisdictional limitation on
Such statements by individual legislators should not be given controlling effect, but when they are consistent with the statutory language and other legislative history, they provide evidence of Congress' intent. Grove City College v. Bell, 465 U.S. 555, 567 (1984). In this case, the legislative history fully supports Representative Hawkins' interpretation of § 106(b).
One of the principal concerns underlying the 1978 amendments was the growing incidence of fraud and misuse of CETA funds by state and local governments. See H. R. Rep. No. 95-1124, pp. 3, 5, 13 (1978) (noting "widespread concern that there has been substantial fraud and abuse in the CETA program and insufficient staff devoted to monitoring and supervising the program"); S. Rep. No. 95-891, pp. 42-44 (1978). A primary purpose of the amendments was to strengthen the Secretary's hand in dealing with illegal practices. Thus the amendments contained numerous antifraud measures, including a provision for criminal sanctions, 18 U. S. C. § 665(a) (1976 ed., Supp. V), bonding requirements for grant recipients, 29 U. S. C. § 836, and authorization for the Secretary to terminate or suspend funding or to
Congress was particularly concerned about the ability of program participants such as contractors, subgrantees, and employees to voice grievances and receive a prompt resolution. See St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, New York v. Brock, 769 F. 2d, at 43 (citing House and Senate hearings on 1978 amendments). The Senate noted that "[i]n some cases grievances have been either ignored, or there has been interminable delay in their resolution." S. Rep. No. 95-891, supra, at 42. In response to this problem, Congress required, in § 106(a), that each prime sponsor establish a grievance procedure that would provide for hearings and require a decision within 60 days after the filing of the grievance. After exhausting the prime sponsor's grievance machinery, an interested party could, pursuant to § 106(b), file a complaint with the Secretary. The legislative history makes it clear that Congress intended the 120-day deadline of § 106(b) to assure program participants the opportunity for a prompt resolution of grievances. Senate Report No. 95-891, supra, at 16, for example, states: "A party who wishes to appeal to the Secretary either the formal or the informal decision of the prime sponsor has the right to a due process hearing and a determination on the merits of the case within 120 days." Conspicuously absent is any reference to the possibility that the 120-day provision might convey rights upon the prime sponsor.
Respondent provides additional arguments, which we find unpersuasive, in support of the Ninth Circuit's decision. Respondent contends that even if the statute does not establish a jurisdictional bar to the Secretary's recovery of funds, the Secretary's own regulations do so. The Secretary's regulations, however, merely provide a timetable for the resolution of complaints and audits. See n. 3, supra. While they arguably go beyond the statute in applying the 120-day limit to investigations triggered by audits as well as those triggered by complaints, they do not specify any consequences of a failure to meet that deadline in the event of either an audit or a complaint. Thus, even if it were possible for the Secretary to create a jurisdictional limitation not contained in the statute, the language of the regulations cannot support respondent's contention that the 120-day provision is jurisdictional with respect to audits.
Respondent urges, if we do not find § 106(b) to affect the Secretary's jurisdiction, that we treat it like a statute of limitations that can vary depending on the complexity of the dispute or the culpability of the grant recipient. There is simply no authority in the statute or legislative history for the
We hold that CETA's requirement that the Secretary "shall" take action within 120 days does not, standing alone, divest the Secretary of jurisdiction to act after that time. There is simply no indication in the statute or its legislative history that Congress intended to remove the Secretary's enforcement powers if he fails to issue a final determination on a complaint or audit within 120 days. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is
The regulations provide that the Grant Officer's final determination shall be the "final determination" required of the Secretary by § 106(b), even though that determination is subject to further review by an administrative law judge and the Secretary. § 676.86(a). Respondent does not contest the Secretary's interpretation of § 106(b)'s "final determination" requirement. In the present case both the Grant Officer's final determination and the Secretary's final action took place after the 120-day deadline had expired.