Robert L. Ashbaugh
Acting Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice
House Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on Crime
Oversight of the
Community Oriented Policing Grant Program
October 28, 1999
* * * * *
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Scott, and Members of the Subcommittee on Crime:
I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee to discuss the work of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) with respect to oversight of the $8.8 billion Community Oriented Policing Services grant program. Specifically, I am here today to discuss two reports issued by the OIG within the last six months: 1) a summary report of findings and recommendations from our first 149 audits of grant recipients; and 2) a program audit that examined the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and Office of Justice Programs (OJP) administration of the grant program. I will address these reports in turn after providing brief background information on the OIGs involvement in overseeing the COPS program.
In 1994, the President pledged to put 100,000 additional police officers on America's streets to promote community participation in the fight against crime. He subsequently signed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (Crime Act), authorizing the Attorney General to implement over six years an $8.8 billion grant program for state and local law enforcement agencies to hire or redeploy 100,000 additional officers to perform community policing.
The Attorney General established the COPS Office to administer the grant programs and to advance community policing across the country. The COPS Office is responsible for: (1) developing and announcing grant programs; (2) receiving and reviewing applications; (3) deciding which grants to award; and (4) monitoring programmatic issues related to grants. OJP is responsible for financial management of the COPS program.
In order to meet the President's goal of putting 100,000 additional police officers on the street, COPS developed six primary hiring and redeployment grant programs for state and local law enforcement agencies.1 Hiring grants fund the hiring of additional police officers and generally last for three years.
Redeployment grants are generally one-year grants that fund the cost of equipment, technology, and support resources including civilian personnel to free existing officers from administrative duties and redeploy them to the streets to perform community policing. At the end of the grant period, the state or local entity is expected to continue funding the new positions or continue the time savings that resulted from the equipment or technology purchases using its own funds.
The primary hiring and redeployment grants for the COPS program are:
Although not a hiring or redeployment grant, the Small Community Grant Program is open to communities with a population of less than 50,000. These grants supplement Phase I, FAST, or UHP grants and help to pay for a portion of the fourth-year salaries and benefits of existing COPS-funded officers. These one-time grants are specifically for the retention of previously funded COPS grant police officer positions and are not counted toward the President's 100,000 additional-officer goal.
The OIG has been involved with the COPS program in various advisory and oversight capacities since its inception. In 1994, we worked with OJP and later with COPS to review program announcements and application kits. Our focus at the time was on applicant eligibility and accountability issues. From 1994 to 1996 we performed pre-award reviews of 40 grant applicants. Because funds had yet to be disbursed, our work concentrated on whether information contained in grant applications was supported adequately and whether community groups and public/private agencies were consulted in formulating grant applications. Once COPS funds began to be dispersed, we audited as many grant recipients as our resources would permit.
During fieldwork for our July 1999 program audit of the COPS Office, COPS and OJP said that as of February 1999 they had awarded approximately $5 billion in grants to fund the hiring or redeployment of more than 92,000 officers, of which 50,139 officers had been hired and deployed to the streets. COPS obtains its "on the street" officer count by contacting grantees periodically by telephone. To our knowledge, the numbers obtained from these telephone calls are not further verified.
From October 1996 through September 1998, the OIG audited 149 recipients of COPS and OJP hiring and redeployment grants totaling $511 million, or 10 percent of the funds COPS has obligated for the program up to that point. We continue to perform grant audits as our resources permit and have issued an additional 54 COPS grantee audits with 38 more audits at COPS and OJP for comment that are not included in the summary report.
In April 1999, we issued a report summarizing the findings and recommendations from our first two years of COPS audits (Police Hiring and Redeployment Grants: Summary of Audit Findings and Recommendations, October 1996 - September 1998). Our audits of individual grant recipients focused on: (1) the allowability of grant expenditures; (2) whether local matching funds were previously budgeted for law enforcement; (3) the implementation or enhancement of community policing activities; (4) hiring efforts to fill vacant sworn officer positions; (5) plans to retain officer positions at grant completion; (6) grantee reporting; and (7) analyses of supplanting issues. For the 149 grant audits, we identified about $52 million in questioned costs and about $71 million in funds that could be better used. Our dollar-related findings amount to 24 percent of the total funds awarded to the 149 grantees.
Several caveats about the individual audit reports are appropriate before considering our April Summary Report:
It also should be noted that COPS and OJP do not always agree with our findings and recommendations and they may conclude that, upon further review and follow-up, in their judgment a grant violation did not occur. 2
Since our April 1999 Summary Report, COPS has appealed our findings to the Departments Audit Resolution Committee (ARC), which is chaired by the Deputy Attorney General and exists to resolve disputes between OIG reports and auditees. COPS now disputes our findings in the areas of supplanting, retention, community policing, and redeployment. The ARC process is ongoing.
That said, highlights of our findings in the April Summary Report include:
This program audit, issued in July 1999, reviewed the COPS Offices and OJPs administration of the community policing grant program. During our review we examined three major areas: 1) COPS ability to meet the Presidents goal to put 100,000 additional police officers on the street by 2000; 2) COPS and OJPs monitoring of grantees; and 3) the quality of guidance provided to grantees to assist them in implementing essential grant requirements.
The first objective of our audit was to assess COPS' progress in achieving its stated goal. We found that COPS has not been consistent with respect to when the 100,000 additional officers funded by the Crime Act will be "on the street." COPS officials state that their goal is to fund i.e., to have approved grant applications for 100,000 new officers by the end of FY 2000. COPS disclaimed a goal of having the 100,000 new officers hired and actually deployed to the streets by the end of FY 2000, even though this goal has been stated by COPS Office publications and Department reports, and in speeches by Administration officials.
Clearly, the COPS grants will not result in 100,000 additional officers on the streets by the end of FY 2000. Based on projections by the COPS Office, only 59,765 of the additional officers will be deployed by the end of FY 2000. COPS counts an officer as funded when it approves the grantees' application for award of the grant instead of when the grantee actually accepts the grant. While COPS projects that it will fund 107,019 additional officers by FY 2000, our audit findings raise serious questions about whether several thousands of these "funded" officers that are currently counted toward COPS' goal will ever materialize.
In addition to the findings mentioned above about redeployment, retention, supplanting,
and community policing all important issues towards achieving the goal of 100,000
new community policing officers on the street we made the following specific
findings regarding COPS ability to meet their stated objective:
The second objective of our audit was to assess COPS and OJPs controls over monitoring of grantees. A variety of regulations require that recipients of federal funds be monitored to ensure proper use of the funds. To this end, the COPS Office and OJP require each grantee to file periodically various progress reports that are important to help monitor compliance with grant conditions.
We determined that many grantees did not submit the required program and financial reports to COPS and OJP.4 These reports are critical for COPS to monitor key grant conditions, such as supplanting and retention of officers. Given the significant number of grantees that had not submitted the required reports, we recommended that COPS increase its monitoring efforts to ensure that reports are submitted. The COPS Office has increased its efforts to monitor grantees by creating a Grant Monitoring Division to conduct site visit reviews of selected grantees and has revised its site visit protocol to address the shortcomings identified in our audit. In addition, COPS has hired a Financial Officer to improve the financial controls over the grants.
Finally, our findings suggest that, in addition to better monitoring by both the COPS Office and OJP, COPS guidance to grantees could be improved to ensure that critical grant requirements are understood and met. Specifically, we found that COPS needs to better define its requirements for non-supplanting, allowable and unallowable costs, redeployment, officer retention, community policing, and progress reporting. The COPS Office has recognized these weaknesses and has developed additional guidance to grantees about these critical issues.
Finally, the OIG oversees a yearly independent audit of all Department components in accordance with the Government Management Reform Act of 1994. For purposes of this financial statement audit, the COPS Office is included in the Departments Offices, Boards and Divisions (OBDs) reporting component. For fiscal year 1998, the OBDs received a disclaimer of an opinion on its financial statements because the auditors were unable to obtain sufficient evidence as to the validity of various accounts in the financial statements and, thus, the scope of their work was not sufficient to express an opinion. Shortcomings in COPS financial controls were one of the major reasons the OBDs received such a disclaimer.
Specifically, the independent auditors cited problems in calculating advances and accrued expenditures for grants provided under the COPS program as one of the disclaimer issues. These and other issues involving COPS financial controls were reported as a material weakness in the Report on Internal Controls. The auditors stressed the importance of having properly operating controls to ensure that funds are disbursed in accordance with COPS policies and procedures and accounted for correctly in accordance with federal accounting standards.
In performing the FY 1998 audit of COPS, the independent auditors also reported errors
and inconsistencies in the calculation of the accrual for grant disbursements, data
integrity issues in the grant accounting system, and non-compliance with COPS
policies and procedures. With respect to the non-compliance issues, the auditors concluded
This completes my summary of the activities of my office with respect to the COPS program. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
1 In 1993, prior to the passage of the Crime Act, Congress provided funds for the Police Hiring Supplement program (PHS), a competitive program awarding grants directly to law enforcement jurisdictions to hire additional officers. This program, administered by OJP, provided almost $150 million as a "down payment" towards deploying 100,000 additional police officers on the street. One-half of the PHS funds were designated for jurisdictions with populations of 150,000 or less and one-half for jurisdictions with populations above 150,000. These grants made it possible for jurisdictions to hire a total of about 2,000 officers and deputies. The positions are counted toward the 100,000 officer goal. Grants are no longer awarded under this program.
2 After we issue our grant reports, COPS, OJP, and the grantee are responsible for ensuring that corrective action is taken. By agreement with COPS, OJP is our primary point of contact on follow-up activity for the grants, although COPS works with OJP to address our audit findings and recommendations, particularly those that indicate supplanting has occurred. The options available to COPS and OJP to resolve our dollar-related findings and recommendations include: (1) collection or offset of funds, (2) withholding funds from grantees, (3) bringing the grantee into compliance with grant terms, or (4) concluding that our recommendations cannot or should not be implemented. To address our non dollar-related findings and recommendations, COPS and OJP can, in addition to other options, bring the grantee into compliance with grant requirements or waive certain grant requirements. When OJP submits documentation to us showing that it has addressed our recommendations, the audit report is closed.
3 The COPS AHEAD, FAST, UHP, and all MORE grants required applicants to plan in "good-faith" for continuation of the program following the conclusion of federal support; however, the retention period was not specified. In our judgment, however, the intent of the COPS grant program appears to be that all officer positions funded should be retained. In August 1998, COPS established a policy that grantees are required only to maintain the COPS-funded officer positions for a minimum of "one budget cycle" after the budget cycle in which COPS funding ends (i.e., usually one additional year). In mid-1998, we believe in response to our audit findings, COPS began requiring grantees to develop written retention plans as part of the grant application.
4 We reviewed the grant files and OJP's financial tracking system records for 200 randomly selected grants. For the 200 grants, 2,074 quarterly financial reports should have been submitted to OJP from the beginning of the grants to the quarter ending December 31, 1997. However, the grantees had not submitted 649 (31 percent) of the required reports. Moreover, the grantees submitted 493 (35 percent) of the remaining 1,425 reports late.