F. GRANT CRITERIA
We audit primarily on the basis of criteria that COPS has
developed to ensure that essential grant conditions are met. Grant requirements are
contained in an "Owners Manual" for each type of COPS hiring and redeployment
grant. The applicable manuals are provided to each grantee receiving a grant and are also
posted on the COPS' internet site. We group COPS criteria into the following categories:
- Accounting Systems: Recipients of COPS' funds are required
to establish and maintain an adequate system of accounting and internal controls to ensure
proper accounting of funds awarded. These records should identify both federal funds and
the matching funds of state, local, and private organizations. The accounting system
should: (1) present and itemize approved costs of salaries and benefits of officers (or
equipment for MORE grants) and show the actual costs of salaries and benefits (or
equipment for MORE grants); (2) assure responsible use of grant funds; (3) assure that
funds are spent in conformity with grant conditions; and (4) be able to provide the
necessary information for periodic review and audit.
- Requests for Federal Share: Recipients of COPS' funding are
only allowed reimbursement for costs previously approved by OJP. The costs should be
reasonable in nature and permissible under the specific grant conditions. Costs that are
deemed allowable are different for hiring and redeployment grants. For hiring grants,
allowable costs include the salaries and approved benefits for three years of sworn
entry-level career law enforcement officers. Up to 75 percent of the entry-level salary
can be paid by award money, with local funding to pay the remaining portion of the salary
and fringe benefits. Costs above the entry-level salary may not be paid from grant funds.
For redeployment grants, allowable costs include the salaries, including approved
benefits, for civilian hires and technology and equipment that have been approved by OJP.
- Officer Redeployment: Documenting time savings for
redeployment applies only to the MORE grant program. The MORE program's goal is to fund
technology or civilian employees to reduce the amount of paperwork and administrative
tasks performed by trained officers so that they can spend more time on the street engaged
in community policing activities. Grants awarded under MORE are restricted to the purchase
of technology, equipment, and the hiring of support resources (civilians) that will
increase the number of sworn officer positions, or full-time equivalents (FTEs), engaged
in community policing activities and enhance community policing activities within the
agency's jurisdiction. The time saved using the MORE funds must result in an increase in
the number of officer FTEs deployed into community policing. Recipients of MORE grants are
required to develop a plan to calculate and track time savings for redeployment realized
from the equipment, technology, and civilians funded by the grant.
- Supplanting: The Crime Act requires COPS grants to
supplement, not supplant, state and local funds. Simply defined, supplanting is the use of
federal funds to replace local funds. Guidance from COPS states:
COPS grant funds must not be used to replace funds that
eligible agencies otherwise would have devoted to future officer hiring. In other words,
any hiring under the COPS program must be in addition to, and not in lieu of, previous
COPS guidelines require that grantees continue to hire as many
new, locally-funded officers as it would have absent receipt of the grant. Grantees must
also take positive and timely steps to fill any vacancies created on or after the grant
award. Failure to hire the required number of officers is a potential indicator of
supplanting. By way of example, the following practices would likely be regarded as
- A department with vacant positions at the start of the grant
period, or at any time thereafter, hires no new officers other than COPS grant-funded
- No timely hiring, other than COPS-grant funded hiring, is done by
a department to replace vacancies created by attrition existing at or after the beginning
of the grant period.
- Grant funds are used to replace, or to allow the reallocation of,
funds already committed in a local budget for law enforcement purposes.
- Officer Retention: Grantees must retain officer positions
for a minimum of one full budget cycle after COPS funding ends.(11)
Recipients of COPS' funds are required to plan to retain the additional positions funded
under the hiring grant and the civilians or the time savings that results from equipment
or technology. Retention planning for hiring grants must demonstrate that "a sincere
and legitimate attempt" was made by the law enforcement agency and by the governing
body to secure and provide local funding to employ the additional officer positions at the
conclusion of the grant period. The same retention planning is needed for securing
civilian positions through MORE grant awards. Retention planning for MORE funded
technology and equipment is demonstrated through "a sincere and legitimate
attempt" to secure local funding for equipment upgrades and maintenance.
- COPS Monitoring Reports: To assist COPS in monitoring grant
activities, grantees are required to periodically report to COPS on the status of their
hiring or redeployment efforts. The type of progress report depends on whether the grant
is for hiring or redeployment. An Initial Report is required only if the recipient has
never previously received any COPS hiring grant. This report solicits information
regarding pre-grant data, which serves as a baseline for measuring the grantee's future
progress in community policing. Information gathered includes the number of officers
authorized by the grantee for the FY prior to the beginning of any COPS grants, training
curriculum, demographics of police force, and community policing activities.
Grant recipients are required to complete and submit an Annual
Department Report updating the information reported in the Initial Report. The Annual
Department Report should demonstrate whether the grantees decreased the number of locally
funded positions after receiving the COPS grants. By reviewing these reports, COPS can
identify potential supplanting issues needing further study. In addition, recipients are
required to submit a Hiring Officer Progress Report that solicits specific information
pertaining to the officers hired under the COPS Hiring grants. Information gathered
includes demographic information on the officers, duties and responsibilities of the
officers, and dates of key events (such as date of hire, graduation from academy and when
training began and concluded). Recipients of MORE redeployment grants must submit the MORE
Annual Progress Report that requires the grantee to provide information about the
increased levels of community policing that have resulted from the purchase of equipment
and/or the hiring of civilian personnel funded under the COPS MORE grant program.
- OJP Financial Status Reports: To assist in monitoring grant
financial activities, OJP requires grantees to submit quarterly financial status reports.
The Financial Status Report is required for both hiring and redeployment grantees. This
report requests information on monies spent, the breakdown of federal and local matches,
and the unobligated amounts. The Financial Status Reports are necessary for OJP to monitor
key grant conditions, especially the condition that grantees reduce the federal share
percentage claimed each year of the grant. This grant condition exists so grantees will
absorb more of the costs each year, making them better able to fund retention of the
officers after the grants expire.
- Community Policing Activities: The COPS office policy is to
allow the local law enforcement agencies to determine its community crime-related problems
and the policing that will solve them. Prior to receiving a COPS grant, the law
enforcement agency fills out an application ranking its major public safety issues,
providing information about its community policing goals, and listing the activities of
the new officers it plans to hire with the grant funds. Any significant changes to the
community policing activities identified in the grant application must be submitted in
writing to the COPS office for approval. The COPS office is responsible for determining
the applicability of grant awards to the community policing activities that are identified
in grant applications.
G. RESULTS OF OUR GRANT AUDITS
Our findings and recommendations for all grant audit reports
issued between October 1, 1996, and September 30, 1998, are presented in Appendix I.
During this period, we issued 149 audit reports of grantees that were awarded $511
million. This amount represents about 10 percent of the funds COPS has obligated for the
program. We grouped our findings and recommendations by category as well as the size or
type of grantee. Because all issues were not of the same magnitude, we color-coded each
issue to show whether, in our judgment, it was serious, moderate, or minor. Where
appropriate, we also quantify our results and categorize them as either "questioned
costs" or "funds to better use."(12)
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. The following are examples of when we would question costs or recommend funds to
- Costs incurred are unallowable according to statutory or regulatory provisions.
- Costs incurred are not supported by documentation.
- Funds were improperly or incorrectly accounted for.
- Funds remain unspent after a reasonable amount of time.
- Essential grant requirements were not met.
In considering our COPS audit results, it should be kept in mind that they:
- Are as of the grant report's issuance date (See Appendix II for the dates each report
was issued). Subsequent communication between the auditee and COPS/OJP may result in
correction to, or elimination of, the issue we noted during our audit; and
- May well not be representative of the overall universe of grantees because, as a matter
of policy, COPS has referred to us for review what it believes to be its riskiest
grantees.(13) During FY 1998, we began supplementing COPS
requests for audits by selecting about one-half of the grantees ourselves. Our results to
date, however, may still be skewed because of the number of audits conducted on
COPS-requested grantees and because our selections were not entirely random. Some of our
audits were also intended to reach suspected problem grantees.(14)
Also note that COPS and OJP do not always agree with our findings and recommendations.
Upon further review and follow-up, COPS and/or OJP may conclude that, in their judgment, a
grant violation did not occur.(15)
Notwithstanding the above, our results indicate that significant
numbers of jurisdictions that we audited are: (1) overestimating officer salaries and
benefits in their initial requests for funding or including unallowable costs in
reimbursement requests; (2) not documenting efforts to redeploy officers to community
policing; (3) using federal funds to supplant local funds; (4) not making a good-faith
effort to fill locally-funded sworn officer positions; (5) not submitting or submitting
late status reports to COPS and OJP; and (6) not fully implementing community policing.
Additionally, we are concerned that some jurisdictions may have difficulty retaining COPS
officer positions with local funds at the conclusion of the grants.
The following weaknesses appear to cut across all types of
grantees that we audited regardless of size or location.(16)
H. AUDIT FOLLOW-UP
- 20 of 145 grantees (14 percent) overestimated salaries and/or benefits in their grant
application. The COPS office depends primarily on the information provided by the law
enforcement departments that submit the grant applications. When grantees overestimate
salaries and/or benefits, COPS overobligates funds that could be available for use
elsewhere. Also, grantees may be using the excess grant funds for purposes that are
- 74 of 146 grantees (51 percent) included unallowable costs in their claims for
reimbursement. Types of unallowable costs include overtime, uniforms, and fringe benefits
not previously approved by OJP. When grantees overstate costs, COPS program costs are
overstated and taxpayer money is at risk.
- 52 of 67 grantees receiving MORE grants (78 percent) either could not demonstrate that
they redeployed officers or could not demonstrate that they had a system in place to track
the redeployment of officers into community policing. The COPS office counts 35,852
officers under the MORE program towards the President's goal of adding 100,000 additional
- 60 of 147 grantees (41 percent) showed indicators of using federal funds to supplant
local funding instead of using grant funds to supplement local funding. The findings
included budgeting for decreases in local positions after receiving COPS grants (27
grantees), using COPS funds to pay for local officers already on board (7 grantees), not
filling vacancies promptly (22 grantees), and not meeting the requirements of providing
matching funds (35 grantees).(17) When grantees use
grant funds to replace local funds rather than to hire new officers, additional officers
are not added to the nation's streets. Instead, federal funds are used to pay for existing
- 83 of 144 grantees (58 percent) either did not develop a good faith plan to retain
officer positions or said they would not retain the officer positions at the conclusion of
the grant.(18) COPS and OJP started awarding community
policing grants in FY 1994 and most grants last for about three years. If COPS positions
are not retained beyond the conclusion of the grant, then COPS will have been a
short-lived phenomena, rather than helping to launch a lasting change in policing.
- 106 of 140 grantees (76 percent) either failed to submit COPS initial reports, annual
reports, or officer progress reports, or submitted these reports late. The reports are
critical for COPS to monitor key grant conditions such as supplanting and retention.
- 137 of 146 grantees (94 percent) did not submit all required Financial Status Reports to
OJP or submitted them late. Without these reports, OJP cannot monitor implementation of
important grant requirements.
- 33 of 146 grantees' (23 percent) had weaknesses in their community policing program or
were unable to adequately distinguish COPS activities from their pre-grant mode of
operations. The findings indicate a greater need for COPS to define the practices that
constitute community policing as well as those that do not.
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 could not 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.
I. CONCLUSION ON GRANT AUDIT RESULTS
As stated previously, our universe of grantees was not selected randomly. Indeed, COPS
has referred to us many of the audits we have conducted because it believed the grantees
may be problematic. We credit COPS with this proactive approach to grant management.
Nonetheless, the frequency and magnitude of issues identified in our grant audits
conducted through September 30, 1998, indicate that significant numbers of jurisdictions
that we audited are: (1) overestimating salaries and benefits or including unallowable
costs in reimbursement requests; (2) using federal funds to supplant local funds; (3) not
making a good-faith effort to fill locally-funded sworn officer positions; (4) not
submitting or submitting late status reports to COPS and OJP; and (5) not fully
implementing community policing.
In addition to the above, we have significant concerns in the areas of officer
retention and redeployment.
- With respect to retention, some jurisdictions may have difficulty retaining COPS funded
officer positions with local funds at the conclusion of the grants. Also, as stated
previously, in August 1998 COPS clarified its policy on retention and only requires that
grantees maintain COPS funded officer positions for a minimum of one additional budget
cycle after the budget cycle in which COPS funding expires. In our judgment, these factors
could have an impact on COPS' ability to keep 100,000 additional officers on the street
for the program's duration. It also increases the possibility that future COPS funding
will be used to retain previously funded COPS officers instead of being used to hire
additional police officers.
- With respect to the MORE redeployment grants, we are concerned about: (1) the large
number of MORE funded officers being counted toward the President's goal of 100,000 (i.e.,
35,852 officers), (2) the frequency of our grant findings that grantees cannot demonstrate
that the required number of officers have been or will be redeployed to community
policing, and (3) the greater risk of misuse of MORE funds by grantees compared to the
hiring grants. For hiring grants, recipients are required to hire and maintain the
required number of additional officers on the street. These activities are relatively easy
to implement, monitor, and measure. For redeployment grants, grantees must buy technology
or hire civilians to free up existing officers so that portions of their time can be used
for community policing instead of administrative tasks.(19)
These activities are much more difficult to implement, monitor, and measure, particularly
for MORE grants that fund technology purchases.
In addition to continuing with our audits of grantees as resources permit, we are
currently performing a comprehensive program audit of COPS' and OJP's administration of
the overall $8.8 billion Community Policing Grant Program. In addition to expanding upon
the issues contained in this report, we will report on: (1) COPS' ability to meet the
President's goal to put 100,000 additional police officers on the street by 2000, (2) COPS
and OJP's monitoring efforts over grantees, and (3) the quality of guidance provided to
grantees to assist them in implementing essential grant requirements. We expect to issue
the program audit report later this year.
11 COPS retention requirements have
evolved. According to COPS, the PHS and Phase I grants did not formally require retention.
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 overall program appears to be that all officer positions should be retained.
In August 1998, COPS established a policy that grantees are only required 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).
12 The Inspector General Act of 1988
contains relevant reporting requirements for questioned costs and funds to better use.
However, not all of our findings and recommendations are dollar-related. Questioned costs
are monies spent that, at the time of the audit, do not comply with legal requirements, or
are unsupported, or are unnecessary or unreasonable. They can be recoverable or
unrecoverable. Funds to better use are future funds that could be used more efficiently if
management took actions to implement and complete audit recommendations. See Appendix II
for the detail of dollar findings by grantee.
13 Of the 149 audits we performed through
September 30, 1998, 103 were referred to us by COPS or OJP.
14 It should be noted that although we
selected only 46 of the 149 audits summarized in this report ourselves, our results to
date do not differ markedly from the results in the COPS/OJP referred audits.
15 See Section H for options available
to COPS and OJP for addressing our audit report findings and recommendations during report
16We did not test
each attribute for all grantees because several of our audits were either limited scope
special requests or the test was not applicable because of the type of grant being
audited. Therefore, our universe of potential weaknesses was not always 149 audits.
17 The numbers in parentheses exceed 60
because several grantees had multiple findings relating to supplanting.
COPS grant criteria on retention has been vague (see footnote 11), we applied the
following test for retention. We reviewed documentation, when available, and asked
grantees what efforts they had made to retain the positions. If we concluded the grantee
was not making a good-faith effort to retain the officer positions, we made
recommendations to develop a written retention plan although it was not always a formal
counts 1,824 hours in time savings as the equivalent of one full-time officer redeployed
to community policing.