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Streamlining of Administrative Activities and Federal Financial Assistance Functions in the Office of Justice Programs and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Report No. 03-27
Office of the Inspector General
In its June 30, 2003, response to the OIG draft report, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) concurred with our recommendations and discussed the actions it has already taken and will implement in response to the recommendations.
In its June 27, 2003, response, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) agreed with the two recommendations directed to it. However, the COPS Office took exception to how we presented various information in the report and to some of the conclusions we reached about the COPS Office. The COPS Office asserted that the information in its response would "put certain points raised by the OIG about our programs and our relationship with the OJP in context."
In this following analysis of the COPS Office response, we disagree with many of the COPS Office's comments and characterizations about the OIG report. We do not address all of the comments individually, but instead provide below a response to the most relevant issues raised by the COPS Office's response. After that, we address the OJP and COPS Office's responses to each of our individual recommendations.
The COPS Office's Initial Grant Programs
The COPS Office contends that our report did not put into proper perspective the fact that OJP awarded the 392 initial Phase I COPS grants for the COPS Office. As a result, the COPS Office suggests that our report unfairly characterized OJP's awarding of these grants as an example of the COPS Office's reliance on OJP.
Contrary to the COPS Office's contention, we accurately presented the facts that OJP awarded the first 392 Phase I COPS grants for the COPS Office early in FY 1995 because the COPS Office was not ready to do so quickly after being established late in 1994. We also stated that the COPS Office went on to award about 7,000 grants during the remainder of FY 1995. While the number of grants awarded by OJP for the COPS Office appears small, as we indicated in the report, it was the first of many actions performed by OJP for the COPS Office.
The COPS Office's Reimbursable Agreement with OJP
The COPS Office took exception to our statement that the COPS Office continually turned to OJP for services related to the COPS program. The COPS Office stated that each year the list of services obtained from OJP through a reimbursable agreement is reassessed and modified and that since the beginning of the COPS program the utilization of OJP's services by the COPS Office has decreased. The COPS Office further stated that the list of services we provided in the draft report does not accurately reflect the specific services currently received from OJP. In addition, the COPS Office indicated that the reimbursable agreements allowed it to utilize available, pre-existing resources of other agencies, rather than reinventing the wheel, and made for cost-effective use of Federal government resources.
The facts related to the COPS Office's use of a reimbursable agreement with OJP to obtain services related to the COPS program clearly support that the COPS Office continually relied upon OJP for such services. The report disclosed that for FY 1999 through FY 2002, the COPS Office transferred about $16 million in management and administration costs to OJP through reimbursable agreements for OJP to perform COPS-related services. The audit report also graphically illustrated that the amounts transferred decreased in FY 2000 and FY 2001, but increased in FY 2002 to the FY 2000 level. In addition, the list of services included in the audit report was current at the time of the audit and was verified by both COPS and OJP during the audit and after the exit conference in April 2003. We cannot comment on any modifications to the list of services after the exit conference, since the COPS Office did not provide any documentation with its response to support such modifications.
We do not take issue with the COPS Office's contention that reimbursable agreements allowed it to use existing resources of OJP rather than "reinventing the wheel." We reported that the COPS Office's use of reimbursable agreements indicates that OJP was better suited to provide the functions for the COPS program. We did not examine in detail the use of reimbursable agreements to confirm whether they are more cost-effective, as the COPS Office contends. Moreover, whether or not the COPS Office's assertions about reimbursable agreements are true does not change the fact that the COPS Office relied on OJP to perform services related to the COPS program. Therefore, we believe the report fairly presents the COPS Office's use of reimbursable agreements as a method of reliance on OJP to perform COPS-related services.
COPS Funds Passed Through to OJP
The COPS Office commented that almost all of the funds that the COPS Office passes through to OJP are mandated by Congress in the COPS Office's annual appropriations language. The COPS Office also commented that the earmarked funds passed through to OJP are for either continuing projects previously administered by OJP or existing projects within OJP. The COPS Office also stated that discretionary pass-through funds are for projects jointly managed by the COPS Office and OJP.
Our report clearly identified that most of the funds passed through from COPS to OJP were mandated by Congress. In addition, our report also clearly indicated the reasons as reiterated in the COPS Office's response for why earmarked and discretionary funds are passed through to OJP. Accordingly, the report fairly presents that the amount of funds passed through from the COPS Office to OJP has steadily increased and reached almost 40 percent of the COPS Office's total budget for FY 2002.
Comparison of the COPS Office's Costs to Manage and Administer Grants
The COPS Office contends that we did not provide it with the details of how we calculated the ratios of management and administration (M&A) costs per program dollar and per grant administered. The COPS Office stated that it appears that we reached our conclusion by comparing the COPS Office's M&A costs in one fiscal year to the amount of COPS grants awarded in that year. The COPS Office also stated that while it has reduced its M&A costs to program dollar ratio over the years, it would be imprudent for a program managing over $8 billion in active grants to further reduce personnel costs while continuing to effectively safeguard Federal funds. In addition, the COPS Office also stated that by looking at only the amount of grants awarded in a given year, our analysis does not take into account the work required for new program implementation and application processing.
The COPS Office is inaccurate when it states that we did not provide it with the details of how we calculated the ratios of management and administration (M&A) costs per program dollar and per grants administered. On several occasions during the audit and again at the exit conference, we informed top COPS Office officials of the methodology we used to calculate the ratios of M&A costs to program dollars and to grants administered. For the ratio of M&A costs to program dollars, the COPS Office and OJP were not able to provide data showing the amount of M&A costs used to administer current year program dollars versus the amount used to administer previous years program dollars. Accordingly, we only were able to show the ratio of actual M&A costs spent during the fiscal year to the actual program dollars spent during the fiscal year. The source documents used to obtain the actual program dollars and M&A costs were verified by the COPS Office and OJP after the exit conference.
Further, the COPS Office's argument fails to take into account that our analysis was consistently applied for both the COPS Office and OJP. Therefore, the analysis fairly presents the COPS Office's M&A costs ratios as compared to OJP's. In addition, contrary to the COPS Office's contention, our analysis of M&A costs to grants administered did not compare the M&A costs to the grants awarded in one fiscal year, but instead compared the M&A costs spent in each fiscal year to the total active grants (awarded plus ongoing) administered during that fiscal year. Therefore, the analysis fairly presents that the COPS Office's M&A costs per grants administered have been increasing steadily while OJP's have been decreasing.
Purposes of COPS Grants and OJP Grants
The COPS Office takes exception to our conclusion that the COPS Office's grants for hiring law enforcement personnel and for purchasing equipment and technology duplicate some awards made under OJP's Local Law Enforcement Block Grant (LLEBG) program. The COPS Office contends that the two programs are not duplicative since under the COPS grants the grantees are required to use the funds to advance community policing while under OJP's LLEBG grants the grantees may choose to support community policing with the funds but are not required to do so. In addition, the COPS Office stated that the potential grantees are selected for awards from different pools under different funding criteria. Specifically, the COPS Office stated that the LLEBG grants are limited to jurisdictions based on the number of Uniform Crime Report Part I violent crimes reported to the FBI while all state, local, federally recognized tribal and public law enforcement agencies are eligible to apply for COPS Office grants. The COPS Office also stated that the three situations we cited as being duplicative were situations where the grantees made complimentary use of different funding sources to add to, but not duplicate, the same crucial law enforcement purpose. The COPS Office's response for each situation follows:
Orange County, Florida Sheriff's Office: The COPS Office stated that the COPS grant funds were limited in the types of technology that could be purchased under the grant and that the grant required that the purchased technology result in the redeployment of officers into community policing. The COPS Office stated that the OJP LLEBG grant funds were used to purchase technology that was not allowable under the COPS grant. Therefore, COPS contends the grants were not duplicative.
City of Orlando, Florida: The COPS Office stated that like the Orange County situation, the OJP LLEBG grant was used to purchase safety equipment that was beyond the scope of the COPS-funded Secure Our Schools (SOS) grant. Therefore, COPS contends the grants were not duplicative.
City of Daytona Beach, Florida: The COPS Office stated that while the grantee did use the COPS grant funds to hire seven officers and the OJP LLEBG grant funds to hire five officers to perform community policing, the grants were not duplicative because the COPS grant was for three years and required the officers to perform community policing while the LLEBG grant was only for one year and the grantee voluntarily chose to use the officers to perform community policing.
The COPS Office is incorrect in its contention that the COPS hiring and technology grants are not duplicative of grants awarded under OJP's LLEBG grants. The fact that the COPS grant is required to advance community policing while the LLEBG grants are not does not change the fact that the two grants are sometimes used for the same or similar purposes as we identified in the report. When such cases occur, the grants are, in fact, duplicative. We also believe that for the three situations cited in the report the grants were duplicative, as explained below.
Orange County, Florida Sheriff's Office: While the COPS Office stated that the OJP LLEBG grant funds were used to purchase technology that was not allowable under the COPS grant, we found the opposite to be true. We obtained documentation during the audit that showed both the COPS technology grant and the OJP LLEBG grant were used to purchase similar computers and related software/accessories.
City of Orlando, Florida: While the COPS Office stated that the OJP LLEBG grant was used to purchase safety equipment that was beyond the scope of the COPS-funded Secure Our Schools (SOS) grant, we found the opposite to be true. We obtained documentation during the audit to show that the grantee used the OJP LLEBG grant to obtain video camera security systems for two schools. Based on the COPS Office's criteria for the COPS SOS grants, the SOS grants can be used to purchase the video equipment purchased by the grantee under the OJP LLEBG grant.
City of Daytona Beach, Florida: The COPS Office's argument for this situation is not well based. Regardless of whether the grants were for three years or one year and whether the grantee was required to or voluntarily hired officers to perform community policing, the fact is that the COPS hiring grant and OJP LLEBG grant were used for the same purpose.
Capability to Apply for Grants Online
The COPS Office provided a lengthy discussion of information regarding the actions it has taken to develop an on-line grant application capability, much of which COPS stated was ongoing prior to the initiation of our audit.
While we acknowledged some of the COPS Office's actions in our report, the COPS Office did not disclose to us during the audit many of the actions it cited in its response to the draft report. In addition, the COPS Office did not provide any evidence in its response to support the type and timing of the actions taken. The COPS Office, however, did agree to continue actions to develop an on-line application capability that would allow it to receive grant applications and to download the application data directly into the COPS management system.
Current Status of Prior Audits
The COPS Office stated that our discussions of the two prior audits related to the COPS program should be put into context with subsequent facts and events. The COPS Office's comments regarding each of the prior audits is as follows:
April 1999 Summary Report: The COPS Office stated that this report of COPS grantees did not "conclude" that the grantees incurred unallowable costs, supplanted, failed to provide timely grant reports, failed to plan to retain the officers after the grants expired, or committed any other grant violations. The COPS Office stated that our report instead made allegations of possible violations that are then subject to a complete investigation and final resolution with each audited grantee before the allegations can be considered sustained. The COPS Office stated that after an exhaustive six-month review by an independent arbiter hired by the Department of Justice, the arbiter found that the grantees were not in violation of the grant conditions in almost 40 percent of the sampled audit findings reviewed.
July 1999 Internal Management and Administration Report: The COPS Office stated that the status of this report was not completely set forth. The COPS Office stated that all the recommendations in the report were closed by the OIG by June 2000 and that there are no continuing issues from the three-year old audit.
In its attempt to place our prior audits of the COPS program into a context that supported its position, the COPS Office misstated the facts regarding the two reports. Contrary to the COPS Office statements regarding the April 1999 Summary Report, the report did in fact conclude that the COPS grantees incurred unallowable costs, supplanted, failed to provide timely grant reports, failed to plan to retain the officers after the grants expired, or committed other grant violations. The findings in the 149 individual COPS grant audit reports that were summarized in the report were not "allegations" of possible violations as the COPS Office contends. Instead, the findings were supported by evidence as described in each individual audit. The accuracy of our findings was evidenced by the fact that in the majority of the sampled issues either the arbiter found or the COPS Office concluded that the grantees were, as originally reported, not in compliance with certain grant conditions at the time of the audit. In the remaining issues, the arbiter found that the grantees were in compliance based on the totality of the information available at the time of the audit-including information that was not provided to the OIG by the grantees but was provided to the arbiter for the first time.
As for the July 1999 Internal Management and Administration Report, the COPS Office is incorrect in stating that the status of this report was not completely set forth in the draft audit report. Contrary to the COPS Office's assertion, the draft audit report disclosed that the COPS Office and OJP had reported taking corrective actions to address the issues in the report and that the audit report was closed.