VIA FACSIMILE and U.S. MAIL
||Guy K. Zimmerman
Assistant Inspector General for Audit
Office of the Inspector General
||Carl R. Peed
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)
||March 15, 2005
||Draft Audit Report on Administration of Department of Justice Grants Awarded to Native American and Alaska Native Tribal Governments
This memorandum is in response to the Office of the Inspector General's (OIG) above-referenced draft audit report dated February 11, 2005. The COPS Office thanks the OIG for the opportunity to respond to the auditors' recommendations. We are pleased that the results of the OIG audit show that COPS obligates grants in a timely manner, thus getting needed grant money out to tribal agencies quickly. COPS is also pleased that tribes stated they were satisfied with COPS grants, and that the equipment grants were very helpful in bringing their departments up-to-date by helping them purchase much-needed equipment.
The COPS Office has been providing grants to Federally Recognized Tribes since 1995 through the FAST, AHEAD, Universal Hiring Program, and tribal-specific grant programs. Since 1995, the COPS Office has provided 296 Federally Recognized Tribes in 32 states with $260 million to hire additional officers and improve law enforcement infrastructure. Over 1,800 new law enforcement officer positions have been awarded to tribal law enforcement through COPS grants, significantly increasing the number of officers policing in Indian Country.
The COPS Office is one of the major contributors to improving safety in Indian Country by enhancing existing tribal police departments and empowering tribes to start their own police departments. Since 1999, COPS tribal-specific grant programs have provided much needed equipment, technology and officers to police departments that would have otherwise gone without.
The COPS Indian Country appropriation of 1999 was the direct result of the Report of the Executive Committee for Indian Country Law Enforcement Improvements, a report directed by the Attorney General and Secretary of the Interior, released in October of 1997. The report stated that there was a public safety crisis in Indian Country, and the single most glaring problem was a lack of law enforcement resources in Indian Country. COPS' interaction with tribes confirmed this finding, with tribal agencies reporting that many tribal police departments were operating under dreadful conditions, serving the community without the most basic policing equipment, training, or an adequate number of officers. Some tribal police departments had no standard uniform for their officers because their law enforcement budget could not cover uniform costs. Many departments did not have a fleet of reliable patrol vehicles, often having to purchase used high-mileage vehicles that would break down frequently because those were all the department could afford. Mobile radios were old and inadequate in Indian Country, leaving officers unable to communicate with dispatch when they left their vehicles. It is for these reasons that the rate of officers killed in the line of duty in Indian Country is higher than the rate of officers killed in the most dangerous urban areas. (American Indians and Crime, BJS, 1999.)
To meet some of these glaring needs in Indian Country, the COPS Office consulted with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and designed a grant program with a flexible menu of options that would allow tribal agencies to meet their most pressing unfunded law enforcement needs. This program is the COPS Tribal Resources Grant Program (TRGP).
Since 1999 the COPS Office has funded patrol and dress uniforms, increasing the professional presence and identification of the officers, and has provided funding for fully equipped patrol vehicles as well as special conveyance vehicles to patrol remote areas of reservations. Some agencies received their first set of bulletproof vests from the TRGP, dramatically increasing officer safety. The COPS Office has seen technology requests from tribal agencies expand from a few desktop computers to complex interoperable communications technology as the quality of data sharing and the technological expertise of the departments has increased. An unexpected benefit of this technology increase was the improved relations with neighboring police jurisdictions as they began to recognize the tribal department as a legitimate police force and a useful ally in the fight against crime. Agencies started sharing crime data among themselves, officers were cross-deputized, and mutual aid agreements were signed, marking a huge improvement in the relationship between the tribal police departments and the local county sheriffs.
In an effort to enhance compliance and successful implementation of our grant programs, the COPS Office developed a set of risk criteria that is used for making funding decisions for awarding tribal grants. In so doing, our intention was to avoid funding those agencies at the highest risk for failure, while still allowing the neediest of agencies an opportunity to receive grant awards. In a further effort to ensure success for agencies funded under a tribal grant, each awarded agency was required to send at least two representatives to Grant Management Training to learn how to properly implement their COPS grant. In addition, each agency awarded funding was required to send at least two representatives to COPS' Community Policing Training. This training is a culturally sensitive training held especially for COPS tribal grantees to assist them in implementing or enhancing their community policing efforts. The COPS Office mandated these two training classes in an effort to give our tribal grantees the greatest chance of success with their COPS funding.
Although the COPS Office has a high volume of grants, over 1,000 of which are to tribal agencies, we are proud of the excellent customer service we provide to our tribal grantees. The small dedicated group of Grant Program Specialists (GPS) that make up the Tribal Team spend countless hours each day assisting tribal grantees with questions related to their grants regarding program implementation, compliance, and grant administration, in addition to providing technical assistance with application submission.
The overall impact of the COPS tribal grants cannot be measured solely through grant files, but must also be measured in the increased safety and quality of life for Native people since the beginning of the COPS grants. After visiting our tribal grantees, it is apparent that the COPS Office has achieved its goals of providing needed law enforcement resources to Indian Country, improving the training and professionalism of tribal police, and increasing the safety of law enforcement officers working in Indian Country.
For ease of review, the draft audit recommendations pertaining to the COPS Office are stated in bold and underlined, followed by the COPS Office's response to each recommendation.
Recommendation 1: Ensure that monitoring plans are developed for each grantee that includes a risk assessment of each grantee based on past performance and compliance with grant requirements to determine the timing and frequency of office-based and on-site monitoring.
The Grant Monitoring Division (GMD) of COPS assesses program compliance, provides technical assistance, and makes recommendations for improvements to COPS grantees through on-site visits and office-based desk reviews. GMD has a monitoring strategy for determining the timing and frequency of on-site monitoring and office-based desk reviews that includes the following risk-based criteria: grantees with awards totaling more than one million dollars, grantees with a waiver of the local match requirement, grantees with additional awards totaling more than one million dollars since the last monitoring review, grantees with multiple numbers of grants and positions funded, grantees with active grants and withdrawals from previous grants, and grantees delinquent in filing financial and programmatic reports.
The COPS Office will conduct a risk assessment for each grantee based on the current risk-based criteria as well as additional criteria to include: geographic isolation, multiple active grants, prior compliance and/or grant administrative problems, and internal or external referrals.
Given the additional criteria, these enhanced risk-based criteria will be used to determine a population of eligible grantees for site visits and office-based grant reviews. From this population, a sampling of grantees, to include tribal grantees, will be selected for site visits and office-based grant reviews. Twenty percent of the total number of site visits and office-based grant reviews will be conducted for tribal grantees. The COPS Office has already initiated ten percent of the office based grant reviews in FY 2005 for tribal grantees.
Recommendation 2: Ensure that required financial and progress reports are submitted in a timely manner.
Recommendation 3: Ensure that grant managers follow up with grantees if required financial and progress reports are not submitted or are not submitted in a timely manner.
Recommendation 4: Ensure that grantees do not draw down grant funds if required progress reports are not filed.
Recommendation 5: Ensure that periodic progress reports are required to be submitted at least annually for the three-year hiring grants and semi-annually for the one-year equipment grants. These reports should be due within a reasonable period of time after the end of the reporting period.
The following statements address Recommendations 2, 3, 4, and 5.
The COPS Office is in agreement with the OIG regarding the importance of timely annual progress reporting on three-year hiring grants. To improve the rate of compliance with submission of programmatic progress reports for hiring grants, the COPS Office has put in place over the past few years a process for contacting grantees that are delinquent in submitting their reports. Grant managers follow up with grantees to ensure required progress reports are submitted by sending a series of two delinquency letters to the agency. Agencies would be barred from receiving additional COPS funding if they did not resolve the delinquent progress report issue.
A change in the collection of progress reports has been in the planning stages for over a year and will be implemented this summer. We believe this change in collection will enhance the COPS Office's ability to ensure that progress reports are submitted in a timely manner. The following change in collection will take place: All Department Annual Progress Reports (DAPR7s), including those reports used for tribal hiring grants, will be merged with the COPS Count Survey used in past years. Through 2004, COPS Count was a survey conducted annually by COPS to ascertain, among other things, the number of officers hired, whether the grantee intended to hire additional officers, or whether the grantee had completed hiring. The survey questions have now been updated to collect the information COPS needs on the annual progress report. COPS will also continue our procedure of contacting delinquent agencies at regular intervals until the information has been received. This procedure has been very effective for COPS, producing a near 100% submission compliance rate for progress reports in previous years. Therefore, we believe the streamlining of these two separate surveys will ensure timely submission of reports by all hiring grantees. This will also ensure that progress reports are submitted at least annually for the three-year hiring grants and are due within a reasonable period of time after the end of the reporting period.
The COPS Office ensures that grantees do not draw down grant funds if required progress reports are not filed pursuant to a detailed enforcement protocol for the failure to provide timely progress reports, dated November 22, 2000. Generally, the protocol calls for the grantee to receive two delinquency notices, providing the grantee with the opportunity to voluntarily comply with the reporting requirement and notifying the grantee of the consequences for failing to do so. Thereafter, if the grantee fails to file a required report, the grantee is found in noncompliance and the grant account is suspended. The suspension means that grantees cannot draw down grant funds unless and until a required progress report is filed. The continued failure to file a progress report results in grant termination and the grantee being barred from receiving any new, additional COPS grant awards for a minimum of one year.
The enforcement protocol has been systematically applied to progress reports for all hiring grants - which includes tribal hiring grants - since 2000. The protocol has proved to be overwhelmingly successful in obtaining progress reports for hiring grants and enforcing the grant requirement if a progress report is not filed. At the same time, however, the protocol balances the need for a reasonable and prudent amount of notice and time for a grantee to submit a delinquent report, without unnecessarily and needlessly stopping the flow of important law enforcement funds and jeopardizing the safety of the community the grant serves. In addition, all hiring grantees - including tribal hiring grantees - have been contacted annually through COPS Count. As such, even though a required progress report may be temporarily delinquent, the COPS Office nevertheless has been obtaining an annual status on the grantee's progress through COPS Count.
Given the COPS Office's success with the delinquent progress report protocol being applied to hiring grants, as a result of this audit, COPS will ensure that the procedures in the protocol are also applied to all other tribal grants, such as technology, equipment and training grants. Although many TRGP Equipment and Training (ET) grants do not have significant amounts of funds left in their grant at the time they are delinquent with their progress report, the COPS Office will apply the suspension protocol to non-hiring grantees. If the notices of delinquency are unsuccessful, then the grantee will be found in noncompliance and its funds suspended until a progress report is filed. This will ensure that grantees cannot draw down funds if required progress reports are not filed for all tribal programs, including both hiring and other tribal grants. The COPS Office believes that the diligent application of the protocol described above to all tribal grants should sufficiently address the OIG's concerns about suspending funds pending submission of a progress report.
The COPS Office disagrees with the recommendation to require semi-annual progress reports for Equipment and Training grants. The COPS Office continues to improve our reporting process for the one-year TRGP ET grants while, at the same time, trying to lessen the grantee's reporting burden. However, we believe requiring the TRGP ET grantees to submit a progress report twice per year would dramatically increase the reporting burden on the grantee. For example, a grantee with three TRGP ET grants would be required to submit six progress reports per year. We recognize that implementation delays are not unusual for equipment and training grants; therefore the increase in the number of progress reports would not supply COPS with enough substantive information on the grants to warrant the increased reporting.
To ensure that reports are due within a reasonable period of time after the reporting period, the COPS Office will mail ET programmatic progress reports in conjunction with extension requests prior to the end of the grant period.
The COPS Office believes that we ensure financial reports are submitted by grantees in a timely manner. During FY 2003, the COPS Office closed a reportable condition on its financial statement audit for delinquent Financial Status Reports (Standard Form-269A) and has maintained an average SF-269A compliance rate of 92%. Our Finance Office will continue to follow up with grantees that are delinquent in submitting their SF-269A’s by initiating phone calls and/or writing letters to ensure financial reporting compliance. In addition, we will review and update our delinquent SF-269A policy as necessary.
Recommendation 14: Ensure that grant drawdowns are monitored to determine if grant funds are being utilized in a timely manner.
Recommendation 15: Follow up with grantees that have not drawn down any grant funds to determine whether the grantees have encountered difficulties in implementing the grant program, and provide assistance as necessary.
The following statements address Recommendations 14 and 15.
Grantees are required to submit SF-269A’s on a quarterly basis. The COPS Office monitors drawdowns through the continuous review and analysis of these reports and, based on their responses, grantees are contacted if they require any technical assistance.
The COPS Office created a policy to waive the submission of SF-269A’s in September 2003 based on specific criteria. (A copy of this policy has been provided to the OIG.) This policy seeks to identify grantees that have had awards for at least six months and have not yet submitted their SF-269A’s. (Grantees cannot draw down funds unless a current report is on file.) A questionnaire is faxed to these grantees requesting the status of their grant implementation and whether the grantees wish to withdraw from the program. If grantees have not implemented their programs, they are not required to report. However, if grantees state that the program has been implemented, SF-269A's are requested by the COPS Office. If no reply to the fax is received, a follow-up phone call is placed to request the documentation from the grantee.
Recommendation 16: Ensure that grant funds are deobligated and the grants are closed if grantees are unable or unwilling to implement grant programs in a timely manner.
The COPS Office ensures that grant funds are deobligated and follows the proper procedures to close grants due to lack of implementation, as appropriate.
It must be noted, however, that there are many valid reasons for implementation delays. Equipment and Training grants often involve a large volume of equipment, complex technology projects, and specialized training that may not be offered with any frequency. Due to their remote locations and inability to provide a competitive salary, tribes are often faced with recruitment challenges, which can easily delay a hiring grant two years or more.
On rare occasions do we find agencies that do not wish to implement tribal grants. Those grantees are asked to voluntarily withdraw from the grant program, and are required to follow the COPS Office's normal withdrawal procedures.
The COPS Office works within its controls to assist those agencies unable to implement grants in a timely manner. When appropriate, the COPS Office approves time extensions to help agencies in overcoming any obstacles to grant implementation.
The COPS Office will continue to ensure proper deobligation and closure of expired grants by following the procedures as outlined in the COPS Closeout Policy and Finance reconciliation process as described below:
(1) COPS Management System (CMS) queries are run on a quarterly basis to determine which grants have expired and are ready for closeout.
(2) On a quarterly basis the COPS Finance Office also identifies which grants have expired and are ready for closeout through review of the grantees' final SF-269A's. An Expired Grants list is then developed and forwarded to the Grants Administration Division (GAD) for a final determination.
(3) As the final step in the closeout review process, the COPS Finance Office completes a financial review of each grant. The purpose of the financial closeout review is to a) verify the approved federal share amount based on the completed project; b) account for non-federal share amounts; c) determine unobligated amounts under the grant; and d) determine and make payment available for unliquidated balances owed to the grantee. In this process the Finance Office ensures that the grantee has submitted a final SF-269A and that the financial records are reconciled according to federal guidelines.
(4) COPS Finance Office verifies and reconciles the information reported on the final SF-269A against the programmatic checklist, which certifies full or partial completion of the project. If necessary, grantees will be contacted to verify financial information reported.
(5) In addition to checking the required local match, the SF-269A is reconciled to the grant expenditures, disbursements, and obligations.
(6) If the Finance Office's reconciliation of the SF-269A and payment history determines that the grantee has been underpaid the grantee is allowed to draw down the remaining allowable funds. Otherwise, the COPS Finance Office deobligates the grant's unobligated balance.
(7) The Finance Office also ensures that the grantee's SF-269A is entered into the IFMIS accounting system and placed in the financial file.
Recommendation 17: Ensure that grantees are not allowed to draw down grant funds in excess of reported cumulative grant expenditures.
The COPS Finance Office performs an excess of reported cumulated grant expenditures project annually to identify grantees that have drawn down unreported funds. We found that grantees do not have excess cash but rather a reporting issue due to a timing difference. The SF-269A is due 45 days after the end of the quarter. For example, a grantee that reports on September 30 is not required to report expenditures for October, November, and December until February 15. When comparing the disbursements for the 3rd Quarter of FY 2004 to the reported expenditures for the 4th Quarter of FY 2004 for all active grants, 76% of grantees were in compliance with respect to this issue. The COPS Finance Office will continue to perform an excess of reported cumulative grant expenditures project on a yearly basis.
Recommendation 18: Remedy the $713,567 in questioned costs related to excess drawdowns on expired grants.
The COPS Office has found that $542,552 of the $713,567 in questioned costs related to expenditures and payments that occurred during the grant funding period. Several agencies, that still have open compliance issues, account for the balance of $171,015 of the questioned costs. The COPS Office will continue to review and determine the best remedies to the respective compliance issues and associated questioned costs.
Recommendation 35: Ensure that expired grants are closed in a timely manner and that remaining grant funds are deobligated prior to closing grants.
The COPS Office will continue to contact agencies with outstanding balances on expired grants to determine the status of the remaining funds. More timely issuance of progress reports, as outlined in Recommendations #2 through #5, and the triggers to monitor drawdowns outlined in Recommendations #14-17, will also address this recommendation.
The COPS Office will establish an Expired Grant Policy that will address timely closure of expired grants and the deobligation of unliquidated balances.
Please refer to the COPS Office's response to Recommendation #16 for additional information.
Recommendation 36: Deobligate and put to better use the $200,380 in remaining funds related to grants that have been closed.
The balance of $200,380 was originally tied to eight grants, all of which have been corrected. Four grants were deobligated and four grants extended.
Recommendation 37: Review grant drawdowns prior to the end of the grant period to determine if all grant funds have been drawn down, and follow up on any grants with remaining funds to determine if the grantee has expended or plans to expend remaining funds prior to the grant end date.
The COPS Office will continue to contact agencies with outstanding balances on expired grants to determine the status of the remaining funds. More timely issuance of progress reports as outlined in Recommendations #2 through #5, and the triggers to monitor drawdowns outlined in Recommendations #14-17, will also address this finding. This issue will also be addressed in the Expired Grant Policy.
Prior to the end of the grant period, the COPS Office contacts all active grantees, asking if they plan to expend remaining funds and if they need more time to do so. If the grantee does not respond that it needs more time to expend remaining funds, then the grant is allowed to expire. If a grantee requests additional time to continue expending the funds, the COPS Office evaluates the responses, including the amount of time already used on the grant; whether prior extension approvals have been granted; the length of extended time necessary to fully implement the grant; the amount of money remaining on the grant; the justification for the additional time; the grantee's hiring history for each grant-funded officer position; and the amount of progress made thus far in implementing the grant. Based on the evaluation of these factors, the grantee is notified whether its extension request is granted and, if so, a new grant expiration date is established. If the extension request is denied, the grant is allowed to expire and proceeds to the closeout process.
Rather than limit our review to just those grants with remaining funds as suggested by the OIG, however, the COPS Office procedure is more comprehensive in that we contact all grantees with active grants to determine if the grantees plan to continue implementing the grants. We believe that this procedure should satisfy the 01G7s recommendation that COPS follow up on any grants before they expire to determine if the grantee plans to expend remaining funds prior to the grant end date.
Recommendation 38: Ensure that grantees are not allowed to draw down funds more than 90 days after the grant end date and that all funds remaining on grants that have been expired for more than 90 days are deobligated.
The COPS Office ensures that funds remaining on expired grants are deobligated, but to do so within 90 days is not an absolute rule, as the OIG suggests. Rather, the Uniform Administrative Requirements allow for the agency to reconcile accounts after 90 days. Specifically, 28 CFR 66.23 (b) states that "[a] grantee must liquidate all obligations incurred under the award not later than 90 days after the end of the funding period . . ." but there is an exception where "[t]he Federal agency may extend this deadline at the request of the grantee." Second, 28 CFR 66.50(b) states that "[w]ithin 90 days after the expiration or termination of the grant, the grantee must submit all financial, performance, and other reports required as a condition of the grant . . . .", but also provides the exception that "[u]pon request by the grantee, Federal agencies may extend this timeframe." It is then 90 days after the receipt of such reports that the "Federal agency will make upward or downward adjustments to the allowable costs." (See 28 CFR 66.50 (c).) As a result, based on the Department of Justice regulations, the COPS Office may extend the 90-day time period in order to make adjustments to and reconcile grant accounts. Accordingly, the COPS Office will ensure that funds remaining on expired grants are deobligated but must, and will, do so consistently with, and not contradictory to, Department regulations that allow for extensions of the time limit to draw down funds.
Recommendation 39: Remedy the $3,077,157 in questioned costs related to drawdowns occurring more than 90 days past the grant end date.
Please see the COPS Office’s response to Recommendation #38.
Recommendation 40: Deobligate and put to better use the $6,487,356 in remaining funds related to expired grants that are more than 90 days past the grant end date.
Please see the COPS Office’s response to Recommendation #38.
Recommendation 52: Work with OTJ to develop a formalized mechanism for coordinating and sharing information, including monitoring reports, related to a DOJ strategy, administration, and monitoring of grants awarded to tribal governments.
OTJ facilitates coordination between departmental components working on Indian issues, and provides a permanent channel of communication for Indian tribal governments with the Department of Justice. The COPS Office currently meets with OTJ and Office of Justice Programs (OJP) several times a year to coordinate and share information concerning funding strategies for Indian Country. In addition, COPS vets all grant award lists through OTJ before award announcements and regularly responds to requests for information from OTJ. COPS will continue its efforts to share information among DOJ components and the BIA and will continue to work with OTJ as they maintain liaison between the Department and the various divisions and bureaus of the Department regarding tribal matters. In addition, it is the understanding of the COPS Office that OJP has a mechanism in place for information sharing through the Office of American Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs. The COPS Office will continue to coordinate and cooperate with this office on all matters relating to our tribal grants.
This year, the COPS Office will partner with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and will fund applications from their Tribal Court Assistance Program. BJA’s Tribal Court Assistance Program funds the same projects COPS would fund under our Tribal Court program and has nearly identical conditions and requirements to the COPS Tribal Court initiative. We believe this cooperative approach will strengthen the working relationship and coordination between COPS and OJP.
Additionally, the Grant Monitoring Division meets on a quarterly basis with the OJP, Office of the Comptroller, Monitoring Division (OC) to discuss grantees referred by COPS divisions for financial site visits. This promotes coordination, reduces duplication of work, and provides follow-up and closure to recommendations from the reviews. In fiscal years 2005 and 2006, GMD will also coordinate with OTJ and OJP offices regarding grants awarded to tribal governments.
Recommendation 53: Work with OTJ to develop a formalized process for training staff responsible for administering and monitoring tribal-specific grant programs.
COPS created a Tribal Team in 1996 to provide a group of GPS's in GAD who were trained in the unique needs of tribal grantees. Although additional training is always welcomed and appreciated, COPS does have formal tribal training in place for all GPS's that work on tribal grants. This training covers areas from Native Culture and Tribal Sovereignty to grant extensions and legal terms. (A copy of the Training material is attached.) In addition, Tribal Team members are sent to tribal training conferences each year, as the budget allows, so that they can better understand the issues affecting Indian Country. The COPS Tribal Team has a body of knowledge on Indian Country and tribal law enforcement issues necessary to administer and monitor tribal-specific grants. Although COPS has a formalized process for training staff responsible for tribal-specific programs, we agree to ensure that those staff members attend any formalized training offered by OTJ.
GMD has a formalized quarterly training process. In addition, Monitoring Specialists in GMD are given technical assistance before, during, and after a monitoring site visit to ensure the Monitoring Specialist has a complete understanding of the tribal-specific grants. Before a Monitoring Specialist conducts a site visit to a tribe, a meeting is held with the GAD Tribal Team member responsible for that tribe. Information is shared regarding tribal-specific grant programs, the history and culture of the tribe, and any potential issues that will need to be addressed on site. During the remainder of FY 2005, COPS will invite representatives from OTJ to this quarterly training at least once per year to make presentations on tribal culture, the unique issues specific to tribal governments, and the jurisdictional complexities of tribal agencies. We will also discuss current compliance issues that GMD has with tribal grantees.
The COPS Office would like to thank you for the opportunity to review and respond to the draft audit report. If you have any questions, please contact me at (202) 616-3291.
||LeToya A. Johnson
Office of Justice Programs
Richard P. Thies
DOJ/JMD Audit Liaison Office