APPENDIX V (Cont'd)
Recommendation #1: Promptly contact agencies that do not accept COPS grants within the designated acceptance period to determine if the agencies plan to accept the grants. If the agencies do not plan to accept, COPS should also improve the timeliness within which it terminates the grants and requests OJP to deobligate the funds.
Response: The COPS Office agrees with this recommendation, and has taken the following corrective actions:
- Once a department has been awarded funding under a COPS grant program, the agency is sent a notification letter informing them in writing of the official grant announcement.(22) This letter informs the awarded department that upon the receipt of their actual award document (sent under separate cover), it must be signed and returned to the COPS Office within 90 days. (Sample letter attached.)
- When the entire award package is mailed, the cover letter accompanying the award document reminds the grantee agency that they have 90 days to sign the document and return it to the COPS Office. This 90-day period begins when the COPS Office mails the award to the department and enters an official mailing date into the COPS data system (CMS). (Sample letter attached.)
- Using the official mailing date that was entered into the COPS data system (CMS) as a basis, awarded agencies which have not returned their signed award acceptance within 60 days are sent a "reminder" letter. This letter informs the grantee agency that only 30 days remain within their award acceptance period. (Sample letter attached.)
- A second award acceptance reminder letter is mailed to all grantees which still have not submitted their signed awards after 90 days have passed. This letter informs the grantee agency that they have a final period of 20 additional days in which to respond and/or return their signed acceptance. The grantee is once again notified that failure to submit the signed award document will result in withdrawal from the program and the deobligation of their funding.(23) (Sample letter attached.)
- After 110 days have passed in total, departments which have failed to respond to the COPS Office or return their signed award documents are classified as "withdrawn" in the data system (CMS), and the funds associated with their awards are thereby requested to be deobligated. After deobligation, a final letter is sent to each grantee agency informing them that their grant has been withdrawn and that their funds have been deobligated due to failure to accept their grant within the allotted time frame. (Sample letter attached.)
Based on these corrective actions, we are requesting closure of Recommendation #1.
Recommendation #2: Discontinue the practice of counting officers as funded before the grantees formally accept the grants.
Response: The COPS Office disagrees with this recommendation for the following reasons:
Notwithstanding the disagreement noted above, the COPS Office has taken the following actions which address the intent of the recommendation:
- Using the original 45-day award acceptance period, only 777 grants for a total of 2,876.1 officer positions remain unsigned. (Analysis attached.) COPS is continuing to contact these grantees to determine whether the awards will be accepted or declined.
- Using the revised 90-day award acceptance period, only 707 grants for a total of 2,666.1 officers remain unsigned. (Analysis attached.) As noted above, COPS is continuing to contact these grantees to determine whether the awards will be accepted or declined.
Based on the alternative corrective action taken, we are requesting closure of Recommendation #2.
Recommendation #3: Enforce the requirement that MORE grantees develop plans to track the redeployment of officers into community policing.
Response: This recommendation is a valid suggestion for improving the COPS Office's management and administration of its MORE redeployment grant programs, and the COPS Office has in fact taken the steps outlined below to strengthen its enforcement of the MORE redeployment tracking plan requirement. Nonetheless, because we disagree with the accuracy of the Inspector General's underlying analysis, we disagree with this recommendation for the purposes of the audit resolution process.
It is our understanding that this recommendation is included in the Audit based in part on the Inspector General's conclusion that "audits of grantees from October 1996 through September 1998 found that 52 (78%) of 67 grantees receiving MORE grants either did not have a system to track the redeployment of officers into community policing or, if they had such a system, it could not show adequate officer redeployment." As previously noted, however, and as discussed in our response to the Inspector General's summary of 149 individual grantee audits (attached at Tab 11), the individual grantee audits are not a representative sample of COPS grantees as a whole. Of the 149 audited grantees, the COPS Office or OJP referred 103 of the sites to the Inspector General based on previously identified areas of possible noncompliance.
Furthermore, the COPS Office has determined that the Inspector General auditors did not consistently apply the accurate standard for auditing compliance with the redeployment tracking requirements when auditing the 67 MORE grantees included in the 149 individual grantee audits. As discussed previously, MORE grantees cannot redeploy sworn officers into community policing until all related parts of their MORE projects are fully implemented and operational.(26) In auditing these MORE grantees, however, the Inspector General auditors did not consistently determine whether the MORE projects were fully implemented and operational before addressing the issue of whether the grantees were tracking officer redeployment. Thus, the Inspector General's statistics are skewed by both the nature of the sample audited and by the misinterpretation or misapplication of the redeployment tracking requirement by the Inspector General auditors.
This recommendation also appears to relate to the Inspector General's statement in the Audit that 18 MORE Assessment site visits conducted by the COPS Office in 1997 resulted in the conclusion that only 77 percent of the total FTEs funded would actually be redeployed. However, this was not a conclusion of the MORE Assessment. The COPS Office did report on the redeployment expectations of 17 MORE '95 sites that were visited (one of the 18 sites was only assessed by phone). Fifteen of these 17 sites were fully operational at the time of the assessment, but most had not been fully operational for one full year. The COPS Office concluded that the total anticipated FTEs, as documented through on-site activities as of the date of the assessment, represented 84% of the redeployment projected on the original awards -- three percent above the minimum required redeployment levels.(27) (In subsequent MORE programs (MORE '96 and MORE '98), the COPS Office has only counted the minimum required redeployment level towards the 100,000 officers count.)
While the COPS Office disagrees with this recommendation because the underlying analysis leading to the recommendation is flawed, we have taken the following actions to enforce the redeployment tracking requirement:
Tracking Redeployment at Full Implementation and Operational Status
As noted previously, COPS MORE grantees are not required to and cannot effectively track redeployment until grants are fully implemented and operational. "Fully implemented and operational" means that all related funded components have been purchased and installed (equipment or technology) or hired (civilians), that personnel have been fully trained, and that officers have been redeployed. As stated above, COPS continues to take steps to enforce the requirement that grantees develop redeployment tracking plans and ultimately track officer redeployment, with the understanding that MORE grantees cannot, and are not required to, track officer redeployment until the underlying project is fully implemented and operational.
On average, MORE grants take approximately 16 months to become fully operational. COPS recently conducted a survey of four technology companies who provide equipment and technology systems to law enforcement agencies. This survey concluded that some of the reasons for the delays in project implementation include the length of the competitive bid process, required modifications to requests for proposals that do not necessarily fit the needs of the agency, and the difficulty that law enforcement agencies have in clearly articulating their technology needs. (Memorandum regarding survey findings attached.) It should also be noted that it usually takes longer for larger police departments to achieve full redeployment, as their projects are often on a much broader scale and require extensive planning. Implementation delays also result from the fact that the COPS Office prohibits MORE grant applicants from purchasing equipment or technology (or hiring civilians) prior to the official award date of a MORE grant to ensure compliance with the nonsupplanting requirement. The COPS Office considers these factors when evaluating compliance with the MORE redeployment tracking requirement.
Recommendation #4: Enforce the requirement that grantees develop a plan for retaining the grant-funded officer positions after the grants expire.
Response: This recommendation is a valid suggestion for improving the COPS Office's management and administration of its hiring grant programs, and the COPS Office has in fact taken the steps outlined below to strengthen its enforcement of the retention plan requirement. Nonetheless, because we disagree with the accuracy of the Inspector General's underlying analysis, we disagree with this recommendation for the purposes of the audit resolution process.
It is our understanding that this recommendation relates to the Inspector General's concern that COPS grantees may not retain officers following the expiration of the COPS grant funding for two primary reasons: (a) the fact that the Police Hiring Supplement (PHS) program (administered by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP)) and the COPS Phase I program, which followed the same requirements as the PHS program, did not specifically require the retention of funded officer positions at the conclusion of the grant periods; and (b) the fact that the COPS Office, with the approval of the Attorney General, requires subsequent grantees to plan to retain their positions for one full local budget cycle following the expiration of the grant period, instead of enforcing a longer post-grant retention period. In addition, we understand that this recommendation also results from the Inspector General auditors' random survey of 191 COPS grantees regarding their retention plans, as well as the 149 individual grantee audits of COPS and OJP grantees.
As we have indicated previously, we believe that the Inspector General's concern that grantees may not retain their COPS officers if the COPS Office does not mandate an extended period of post-grant retention is unwarranted. First, 96% of 307 COPS Phase I grantees whose grant periods have ended confirmed on their final grant status reports that they had requested funding to retain their COPS officer positions beyond the life of the grant - even though retention was not a specific requirement of the COPS Phase I program. In addition, we believe that requiring grantees to plan to retain their additional positions for one full local budget cycle beyond the expiration of the grant period is a sufficient requirement to impose on local grantees. We believe that the widespread local support for the community policing and enhanced law enforcement benefits of the COPS program will result in retention of officers beyond the period monitored by the COPS Office.
The Inspector General auditors' random survey of 191 COPS grantees confirms that COPS grantees do intend to retain their additional officer positions. 96% of the surveyed grantees stated that they would in fact retain the positions. Although the Inspector General notes that 43% of these grantees indicated that they had not yet developed a good faith plan to retain the positions, it is not clear from the Audit whether the surveyed grantees were funded prior to June 1998, in which case they were not required to develop a formal written retention plan to comply with the retention planning requirement. If the surveyed grantees were not required to have a written retention plan, it is misleading to imply that their failure to have such a plan is an indication that they will not retain their officer positions.
The COPS Office has similar objections to the Inspector General's interpretation of the 149 individual COPS and OJP grantee audit results in the area of retention planning. Although the Audit indicates that 91% of the audited grantees intended to retain their positions (the Audit states that only 9% indicated that they would not retain), it focuses on the fact that 53% of those grantees had not developed a good faith plan to retain the positions. Again, however, these audited grantees were not required to develop a formal written retention plan in order to comply with the retention planning requirement.(28) As a result, it is misleading to imply that the fact that these grantees did not have such a written retention plan means that they were not planning to retain the positions as required by the grant conditions.
While the COPS Office disagrees with this recommendation on the basis that we disagree with the underlying analysis leading to the recommendation, we have taken the following actions to strengthen and enforce the retention planning requirement:
Recommendation #5: Establish a system to ensure that terminated grants are accurately reported and that related funding is deobligated.
Response: The COPS Office agrees with this recommendation, and has taken the following corrective actions:
Based on these corrective actions, we are requesting closure of Recommendation #5.
Recommendation #6: Increase monitoring of grantee compliance with reporting requirements to ensure that grantees submit the required program reports.
Response: The COPS Office agrees with this recommendation, and has taken the following corrective actions to increase its monitoring and enforcement of grantee compliance with the programmatic reporting requirements:
- The 1998 Hiring Progress Report Package was mailed to all 10,300 hiring grantees (Phase I, FAST, AHEAD, and UHP) on December 18, 1998. Included in this package was the 1998 Department Annual Report and the 1998 Officer Progress Report. These reports were to be completed and returned to the COPS Office, c/o the contractor, by February 15, 1999. The cover letter included in this package explained that failure to submit the reports would result in the suspension of funding. (Sample letter attached.)
- On March 5, 1999, a delinquency notification letter was mailed to 3,500 agencies (34% of contacted agencies) that had failed to submit the required reports on time. This first delinquency notification letter gave the agencies a due date of April 5, 1999 to return the delinquent reports. This letter, as with the cover letter dated December 18th, explained that failure to submit the reports would result in the suspension of funding. (Sample letter attached.)
- On April 8, 1999, a second delinquency notification letter was sent to the 1,500 agencies (14% of contacted agencies) that had still not submitted their required reports. This second notification gave the grantees an additional 14 days (until April 22, 1999) to submit the reports before funding would be suspended.(Sample letter attached.)
- On April 23, 1999, the COPS Office suspended funding for 929 agencies (9% of contacted agencies) that remained delinquent after both delinquency notifications. All 929 agencies received a Suspension of Funding Notification Letter, explaining that their COPS hiring grant funding had been suspended. The letter also provided instructions on how grantees could comply with the reporting requirement and have access to their funding restored. (Sample letter attached.) As of July 9, 1999, 450 agencies whose funds were suspended (48% of the suspended grants) have remedied the violation by submitting the required reports. Grant funds to the other 479 agencies will remain suspended until the required reports are submitted.
As of July 1999, the COPS Office has currently reached a 97% compliance rate for the 1998 Hiring Progress Reports as a result of the new procedures. Funding for the remaining 3% of hiring grantees will remain suspended until the required progress reports are filed.
At this time, we are negotiating the terms of a renewed contract to ensure that this procedure is followed for the 1999 hiring progress reporting cycle, which ends on December 31, 1999.
Based on these corrective actions, we are requesting closure of Recommendation #6.
Recommendation #7: Ensure that the revised monitoring procedures are followed to ensure that: (a) site visits and corresponding reports consistently cover the critical requirements of the grants, and (b) deficiencies identified during site visits are followed up to ensure that grantees correct the deficiencies.
Response: The COPS Office agrees with this recommendation and has taken the following corrective action:
Based on these corrective actions, we are requesting closure of Recommendation #7.
Recommendation #8: Increase monitoring of grantee compliance with reporting requirements to ensure that grantees submit the required financial reports on time.
Response: OJP agrees with this recommendation and has taken the following corrective actions:
Based on these corrective actions, we are requesting closure of Recommendation #8.
Recommendation #9: Establish monitoring procedures for follow up on deficiencies identified during site visits to ensure that grantees correct the deficiencies.
Response: OJP agrees with this recommendation and has taken the following corrective actions:
Based on these corrective actions, we are requesting closure of Recommendation #9.
Recommendation #10: Continue efforts to strengthen guidance on critical grant requirements and distribute the revised guidance to all grantees.
Response: This recommendation is a valid suggestion for improving the COPS Office's management and administration of its grant programs, and the COPS Office has in fact taken the steps outlined below to clarify and strengthen its guidance regarding essential grant requirements. Nonetheless, because we disagree with the accuracy of the Inspector General's underlying analysis, we disagree with this recommendation for the purposes of the audit resolution process.
We understand that this recommendation is based on the Inspector General's analysis of findings from 149 individual COPS and OJP grantee audits. As previously noted, however, and as discussed in our response to the Inspector General's summary of 149 individual grantee audits (attached at Tab 11), the individual grantee audits are not a representative sample of COPS grantees as a whole. Of the 149 audited grantees, the COPS Office or OJP referred 103 of the sites to the Inspector General based on previously identified areas of possible noncompliance.
We have also previously expressed our concern to the Inspector General that for the 149 audits in question, the auditors did not consistently apply the COPS grant requirements correctly in reaching conclusions regarding grantee compliance. Our review of individual grantee audit findings indicates that the Inspector General misinterpreted and/or misapplied the COPS Office's compliance standards in the areas of retention, redeployment, supplanting, and community policing in a significant number of audits. The Inspector General does not agree with our analysis, and this dispute is the subject of an ongoing audit resolution process chaired by the Deputy Attorney General of the Department of Justice.
As part of the audit resolution process, the Inspector General randomly selected 40 audit findings in these four compliance areas from the 149 individual grantee audits for review. We determined after reviewing the audit findings and the grantees' responses that we disagree with approximately 90% of the retention findings; 50% of the redeployment findings; 100% of the supplanting findings; and 70% of the community policing findings. These issues form the basis of the ongoing audit resolution process, which will resolve the significant disagreements between the COPS Office and the Inspector General regarding the individual audit findings which the Inspector General uses to support many of the conclusions in this Audit.
Despite the fact that the audit resolution process has not yet concluded, and therefore the underlying findings in this audit report are still under review by the Department of Justice, the Inspector General has decided to issue this Audit at this time. As a result, any conclusions drawn from the audits of the 149 pre-selected high risk grantees are questionable and premature in light of the ongoing audit resolution process.
While the COPS Office disagrees with this recommendation on the basis that we disagree with the underlying analysis leading to the recommendation, we have taken the following actions to clarify the guidance provided to our grantees concerning essential grant requirements:
Hyperlink to COPS/OJP Comments to OIG's Summary Report Issued in April 1999
20. Agencies awarded in Fiscal Year 1999 were mailed an award acceptance "reminder" letter if they were mailed their award more than 45 days ago and COPS had not yet received a copy of their signed acceptance.
21. The COPS Office requires the signatures of both a Government Executive and a Law Enforcement Executive on grant award documents. Grantees often have been unable to meet the previous 45-day acceptance period because of the time required to obtain both required signatures and a vote of approval for accepting the grant from the local governing body (e.g. city council or county commission) following the announcement of a COPS grant award. In many cases, grantees must wait for a regularly scheduled meeting of the governing body to present the award for a vote regarding grant acceptance. Delays in accepting the awards may also result from the grantee's need to confirm the source of local matching funds prior to award acceptance. The COPS Office extended the 45-day acceptance period to a 90-day acceptance period to address these concerns.
22. The notification letter is sent to departments at the time of award announcement.
23. Departments that need additional time to make a final decision regarding the acceptance of their COPS grants may request an extension by providing the COPS Office with an expected date for official acceptance and an explanation as to why the additional time is needed.
24. This is the same process that the COPS Office follows when a grantee voluntarily withdraws from a COPS grant, as opposed to failing to submit a signed award.
25. As discussed below in response to Recommendation #5, the COPS Office is currently conducting a review of withdrawn grants to ensure that the related grant funding is deobligated. This process is scheduled for completion by July 31, 1999.
26. For example, if a COPS MORE grantee receives grant funding to purchase an equipment or technology system such as an automated booking system, the grantee must agree to redeploy a certain number of officers into community policing as a result of the time saved from using the new equipment or technology. The grantee cannot redeploy those officers into community policing, however, until they begin saving time through the use of the new equipment or technology. The time savings will not occur until the new system is purchased, installed, operational, and any required training has been completed. The COPS Office therefore does not require grantees to track the redeployment of sworn officers into community policing until the funded project is fully implemented and operational.
27. The "minimum required redeployment level" for a COPS MORE grant refers to the number of officer FTEs that MORE '96 and MORE '98 grantees must redeploy as a result of time savings achieved through the purchase of equipment and technology or the hiring of civilians. This level is based on the calculation of up to 75% of the total grant project costs of items awarded, divided by 75% of the cost of an entry-level officer's salary and benefits for one year (up to $25,000). In the first COPS MORE program (MORE '95), the COPS Office required grantees to achieve the actual level of redeployment that the grantees projected in their grant applications. This actual level of projected redeployment was often significantly higher than the minimum required redeployment level based on the grant applicants' inexperience in using equipment, technology, or civilians for time savings and redeployment of sworn officers and their inability to make an educated prediction regarding the level of redeployment that would result from the grants. As a result of lessons learned from the MORE '95 program, the COPS Office adjusted its compliance requirements for the MORE '96 and MORE '98 programs to require and track officer redeployment based on the minimum required redeployment level.
28. The 149 individual grantees audited by the Inspector General and summarized in the Audit were all funded prior to June 1998, and therefore were not required to prepare written retention plans to demonstrate compliance with the retention planning requirement. Instead, grantees were required to plan in good faith to retain their positions, and could demonstrate compliance with this requirement by providing supporting documentation reflecting their planning efforts (e.g. city or county council meeting minutes; budget requests; budget memoranda; private grant funding applications; or state grant funding applications or requests). Because we have determined that the Inspector General misapplied this retention planning standard, we disagree with 90% of the retention findings which were selected by the Inspector General in a random sample of audit findings which form the basis of an ongoing audit resolution process.
29. The COPS Office views mitigating circumstances as those which demonstrate severe fiscal distress or result from an officially declared natural disaster.
30. The five days are used to confirm that the withdrawal request is legitimate (i.e. has been submitted by an official representative of the grantee agency).