OIGS ANALYSIS AND SUMMARY OF ACTIONS
NECESSARY TO CLOSE REPORT
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) and the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) submitted a consolidated response to our draft report (see Appendix V of this report). As an attachment to the consolidated response, COPS included its response to our April 1999 summary audit report of individual grantees (OIG Report 99-14, Police Hiring and Redeployment Grants: Summary of Audit Findings and Recommendations, October 1996 September 1998). 25 The analysis in this appendix addresses various issues raised in the COPS and OJP consolidated response and provides a summary of the actions necessary to close this audit report. Based on the consolidated response, we made revisions to the final report where we considered it appropriate. The consolidated response reflected that COPS and OJP had taken or begun actions to implement nine of the ten recommendations in the report. Accordingly, we consider six recommendations closed, three recommendations resolved but open, and one recommendation unresolved. Before presenting our specific comments on and the status of each of the reports recommendations, we have several overall comments.
OIG Analysis of COPS General Comments
Throughout its response, COPS questions the validity of our findings and recommendations in this report because, according to COPS, they were based, at least in part, on our 149 individual grant audits. COPS asserts that during the individual audits, we misapplied and/or misinterpreted the COPS Office compliance standards. As previously mentioned, these issues are currently being disputed through the Departments Audit Resolution Committee, chaired by the Deputy Attorney General.
We recently reviewed our work in the contested areas and after detailed reconsideration in the light of the challenges made by COPS, have concluded that in all material respects our grant audit reports are accurate, fair, and reliable. In addition, many of the findings in our grant audit reports are also supported by the findings of independent Certified Public Accountants during the annual financial statement audits of the Offices, Boards and Divisions of the Department of Justice.26 We note that COPS broad disagreement with our grant findings is a recent occurrence that did not surface until we confirmed to COPS our intention to publicly release a summary of our COPS grantee audit work, which we did in April 1999.27 Although COPS currently disputes 90 percent of our retention findings, 50 percent of our redeployment findings, 100 percent of our supplanting findings, and 70 percent of our community policing findings on what it previously has described as its problem grantees, our review of official correspondence from our files found a much lower rate of disagreement 3 percent for retention, 3 percent for redeployment, 11 percent for supplanting, and 17 percent for community policing. After thoroughly reviewing the bases for COPS current disagreements with our individual grant audits, we determined that most of COPS disagreements are subsequent to corrective actions taken by grantees after we issued our individual audit reports. As such, our audit findings were valid.
We also note that there appears to be confusion within COPS as to the role of an independent Inspector General. For example, while we rely on COPS criteria to conduct our audits, we are not bound by them. Our auditors independently establish baselines against which to measure grantee performance based on authorizing legislation, program intent, criteria established by COPS, and other sources. If we identify gaps between these baselines and actual practices, we determine the reasons for these discrepancies, and, if appropriate, make findings and formulate recommendations to close the gaps.
Our audit results are not arrived at in the haphazard fashion suggested by COPS. The grant audits are comprehensive reviews that on average require six weeks of intensive analytical work, including three weeks on-site. We review eight critical areas: the grantees accounting systems, reimbursement requests, budgeting practices, hiring practices, status reporting to COPS and OJP, retention planning, redeployment activities, and community policing activities. Our audits are subjected to an extensive quality review process by senior auditors and managers to ensure that our findings are fair and accurate.
During our on-site work, we execute a structured, 54-page audit program that was developed in conjunction with COPS. We interview key local officials such as the grant administrator, the finance officer, and the personnel officer, among others. We obtain and analyze critical documents and observe the grantees operations. We also meet with key officials at regular intervals to explain our findings, obtain the grantees views, and provide grantee officials with ample opportunity to provide documentation necessary for us to complete our work. After we complete our on-site work, we conduct a formal exit conference to inform grantee officials of our audit findings and to get their feedback. Finally, we prepare an audit report to assist COPS in determining whether grant requirements are being met. Our report format was also developed in conjunction with the COPS Office.
We do not agree with COPS assertion that the conclusions we reached in this program audit are not valid because COPS has contested findings in our audits of individual grantees. Separate from the fact that we firmly believe our grant results are accurate, the conclusions we reached in this program audit were not based exclusively on the grant results. For example, many findings in this report concern poor policy decisions or practices by COPS including: (1) counting officers as funded before grantees accept the grants; (2) only requiring grantees to retain officer positions for one year after COPS funding ends;28 (3) providing MORE grantees virtually unlimited time to redeploy officers resulting from technology purchases; (4) inadequate monitoring of grantees; and (5) providing insufficient guidance to grantees on what is expected of them. None of these findings is directly related to our individual grant findings, nor would any of the ten recommendations contained in this report have changed even if our grant audit work did not exist.
We stand by the quality of our audit work both in this report and in our individual grant reports. Our conclusions were reached after a thorough analysis of the individual facts for each case. COPS is free to accept or reject our findings and recommendations. However, given our statutory mission to identify and deter waste, fraud, and abuse, COPS cannot prescribe what those findings and recommendations will be. We view independent audits as an important part of the Departments overall system of checks and balances.
At page 4 of its response, COPS states its recognition that it has not been consistent in communicating the goal of the COPS program. COPS response indicates that the goal of the COPS program is only to fund 100,000 officers through the year 2000, with the ultimate goal being to see that those 100,000 officers are deployed to the streets. COPS states that when the President signed the Crime Bill on September 13, 1994, he did not suggest that all 100,000 officers would be deployed by the year 2000. COPS also stated that on May 12, 1999, the President commended the COPS program for meeting the milestone of providing funding for 100,000 officers ahead of schedule and under budget. In its response, COPS states that between September 13, 1994, and May 12, 1999, the majority of official COPS announcements and statements described the goal of the COPS program as adding 100,000 police to Americas streets, not that all 100,000 officers would be deployed by the year 2000.
We agree that COPS has not been consistent in stating its goal. Despite COPS assertion that the majority of its official announcements and statements did not restrict the goal to deploying all 100,000 officers by the year 2000, we found several examples to the contrary:
We also found the following statements by the Attorney General, Vice President, and President stating the goal was to deploy the 100,000 officers to the street by the year 2000:
In addition to these statements by COPS and top Department and Administration officials, the official goal of the COPS program is contained in the Department of Justices September 1997 Strategic Plan (1997 through 2002) as required by the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) of 1993. Congress passed the GPRA to require federal agencies to establish clear long-term goals and to hold agencies accountable when those goals are not met. The Department of Justices Strategic Plan clearly states that the goal of the COPS program is to "strengthen and improve community police services and, by the year 2000, increase the number of officers on-the-beat by 100,000 over 1992 levels." The Department has described the Strategic Plan as setting the goals and indicators that the Department will use to gauge its performance. The Strategic Plan also provides the foundation for the Departments ongoing efforts to improve the performance of its programs and achieve the results that the American people rightfully expect.
At page 5 of its response, COPS states that the COPS Office has acknowledged that the 100,000 officers will not be fully deployed by the year 2000 because of the lag time between funding an officer position or an equipment, technology, or civilian hiring project, and seeing the newly hired or redeployed officers on the street. COPS also implies that we believe that COPS should encourage grantees to expedite officer recruiting, hiring, or training and bypass standard procurement procedures and civilian hiring practices in order to demonstrate that the COPS program could result in officers on the street overnight.
COPS is wrong to imply that we believe grantees should be encouraged to bypass standard hiring and procurement practices in order to deploy officers more quickly. We do not condone such shortcuts and our report does not state or suggest such a belief. COPS response indicates that the grantees time lags in hiring and redeploying officers is beyond COPS control. While this could be true, our audit disclosed many significant areas that are within COPS control and could be used to improve management and administration of the program to help hire and deploy the officers more quickly and ensure the officers are retained after the grants expire. For example, COPS should have promptly followed up on unaccepted grants, deobligated those grants that were not going to be accepted, and awarded replacement grants to agencies who would have used the grants to actually deploy officers. COPS also needed to ensure that grantees were adequately planning to retain officer positions or full-time equivalents through the hiring and redeployment grants.
Our findings on MORE redeployment grantees are particularly troubling but they do not suggest that grantees circumvent responsible procurement practices. Our findings suggest that COPS needs to address why several years after receiving COPS funding to buy technology, significant numbers of grantees have not implemented the technology and cannot demonstrate that the required number of officer FTEs have been redeployed to community policing.29 Technology, particularly computer technology, changes very quickly and substantial delays in implementation can render the technology obsolete before it is installed.
At page 6 of its response, COPS states that it does not count officer positions towards the 100,000 total when a grantee declines funding or terminates an active grant. COPS states that officer positions are deducted from the 100,000 total upon notification of the grantees intent to withdraw, regardless of when actual deobligation of funding occurs. COPS states further that the deobligation process is unrelated to the tracking and counting of the 100,000 officers.
As stated in our report, COPS counted officer positions funded by $5.4 million in grants towards the 100,000 goal after the grantees had notified COPS that they were declining or terminating their grants. COPS response does not refute our finding. We agree the deobligation process is not related to whether or not COPS counts the terminated grants towards the 100,000 goal. However, if the grants are not deobligated in a timely manner, unexpended appropriations will be incorrectly reported to Congress and funds may not be readily available to award replacement grants.
OIG Analysis of COPS Comments on Report Recommendations
Recommendation 1: Resolved. We recommended that COPS promptly contact agencies that do not accept grants within the designated acceptance period to determine if the agencies plan to accept the grants. If the agencies do not plan to accept, we recommended that COPS improve the timeliness within which it terminates the grants and requests OJP to deobligate the funds.
COPS agrees with the recommendation and states in its response that as of March 1, 1999, it has implemented a revised policy extending the grant acceptance period from 45 days to 90 days. This extension of the acceptance period was based on an analysis of the typical amount of time that grantees have historically taken to return the signed award letters. COPS also put into place a new process to help ensure that grant awards are accepted within the 90-day acceptance period. The process includes a series of five letters, each of which reminds the grantee of the 90-day acceptance deadline. The letters also explain that should the agency not return the signed award letter within the designated time, the agency faces withdrawal from the grant program and the deobligation of all grant funds. As for the delinquent grants we identified during the audit, COPS states that it has contacted 90 FAST and AHEAD grantees and 781 UHP grantees awarded grants through FY 1997 to determine if the grantees were going to return the signed award letters. As a result of the contacts, COPS has withdrawn the grants for 461 (53 percent) of these grantees and either has or is in the process of deobligating the grant funds. COPS further states in its response that on July 10, 1999, it mailed letters to another 562 agencies awarded grants in FY 1998 and FY 1999 and gave the agencies 20 days to respond and/or return the signed award letters. COPS states that it will deobligate the grant funds if the agencies fail to respond by July 29, 1999. COPS response states that as of July 1, 1999, 777 grants, totaling 2,876.1 officers and about $164 million remained unsigned past the previous 45-day acceptance period.
COPS actions are sufficient to resolve the recommendation. To close this recommendation, please provide documentation showing the number of officers and dollar amounts associated with the 461 delinquent grants withdrawn and deobligated. Also, when actions are completed, please provide documentation showing how many of the remaining 777 grants have been withdrawn and deobligated, along with the number of officers and dollar amounts associated with the withdrawn grants.
Recommendation 2: Unresolved. We recommended that COPS discontinue the practice of counting officers as funded before the grantees formally accept the grants.
COPS disagrees with the recommendation and indicates in its response that before the grantees are sent the grant award document to sign, a public announcement is made and a confirmation letter is sent by COPS to the grantee authorizing the grantee to begin executing the grant. COPS believes it would be inconsistent to permit the grantee to begin executing the program and yet not count the positions as funded or authorized.
We do not agree with this practice. By counting such positions as funded, COPS risks misleading Congress and the public into believing that the grantees have accepted the grants and will actually deploy the officers. Our recommendation is bolstered by COPS response to Recommendation 1, which clearly shows that many grantees do not actually accept the grants and deploy the officers. For the 871 delinquent grantees from FY 1995 through FY 1997 contacted by COPS, 53 percent decided not to accept the grants. As of July 1, 1999, 777 grants for 2,876.1 officers and about $164 million were still unsigned past the previous 45-day acceptance period. In our judgment, if COPS continues to count the unaccepted grants as funded, it should also include in its reports to Congress a qualifier that the number of officers COPS reports as funded includes grants that have not been accepted by the grantees.
To resolve and close this recommendation, please provide a response showing that COPS agrees to: (1) discontinue counting officers as funded until the agencies accept the grants, (2) include in its official reports to Congress and others the number of officers that it reports as funded that are associated with grants that have not been accepted by the grantees, or (3) implement an acceptable alternative action that fairly represents the actual number of the officers funded.
Recommendation 3: Closed. We recommended that COPS enforce the requirement that MORE grantees develop plans to track the redeployment of officers into community policing.
COPS states in its response that the recommendation was a valid suggestion for improving the COPS Offices management and administration of its MORE program. COPS also states in its response that it has implemented the following actions to enforce the redeployment tracking requirement:
Because the corrective actions taken by COPS effectively implement our recommendation, we consider the recommendation closed. However, COPS states in its response that it disagreed with the recommendation because it disagreed with the accuracy of our underlying analysis of the results of the individual grantee audits that we conducted from October 1996 through September 1998. Although COPS agreed with most of our individual redeployment findings at the time, took corrective actions then, and since has made broader programmatic changes, it apparently wishes to continue to dispute those audits.
COPS response also questions our statement in the report that COPS 1997 assessment of 18 MORE 95 grantees showed that only 77 percent of the total FTEs funded would actually be redeployed. COPS states that its assessment reported on only 17 grantees actually visited (one of the 18 sites was assessed by phone). COPS states that it concluded the grantees would redeploy 84 percent of the funded officers, instead of 77 percent as we reported. COPS states the 84 percent redeployment was 3 percent above the minimum required redeployment. COPS states that in the subsequent MORE programs (MORE 96 and MORE 98), it only counts the minimum required redeployment level towards the 100,000-officer count.
Because COPS counts MORE 95 grants at 100 percent redeployment levels, its response further supports our conclusion that the officers counted towards the 100,000 goal are overstated. COPS provided us with all 18 assessments of the MORE 95 grantees. Therefore we used all 18 in our analysis. Using all 18 assessments, we calculated the total projected redeployment to be 77 percent of funded officers, instead of 84 percent as calculated by COPS using 17 of the 18 assessments. Regardless of which calculation is used, the analysis shows that the MORE 95 grantees will probably not redeploy a significant number (16% to 23%) of the FTEs funded by the grants. As COPS indicated in its response, because the required level of redeployment in the MORE 95 grants was overstated, COPS changed the subsequent MORE grants to require grantees to redeploy only the minimum required redeployment level, and only counts the minimum requirement towards the 100,000 goal for the later grants. However, COPS still counts the total funded FTEs for the MORE 95 grants towards the goal, even though COPS recognizes that many of these officers are likely not to be redeployed. As of February 11, 1999, COPS counted 13,617 FTEs towards the 100,000 goal under the MORE 95 program. If the percentages in COPS MORE assessments are representative of all MORE 95 grantees, from 2,178 (16%) to 3,132 (23%) FTEs will likely not be redeployed through the MORE 95 grants, but are nonetheless counted towards the 100,000 goal. In our judgment, this clearly does not represent a fair and accurate accounting by COPS.
Recommendation 4: Closed. We recommended that COPS enforce the requirement that grantees develop a plan for retaining the grant-funded officer positions after the grants expire.
COPS states in its response that the recommendation was a valid suggestion for improving the COPS Offices management and administration of its hiring grant programs. COPS also states that it has implemented the following actions to enforce the retention planning requirement:
Because COPS took corrective actions to implement the recommendation, we consider the recommendation closed. Although COPS implemented the recommendation, COPS states in its response that it disagrees with the recommendation because it disagrees with the accuracy of our underlying analysis. Specifically, COPS states that it disagrees with our recommendation for two primary reasons: (1) the PHS and Phase I grants did not require retention of the officer positions, and (2) COPS, with the approval of the Attorney General, requires subsequent grantees to retain the positions for one full local budget cycle following expiration of the grants. COPS also claims that our recommendation results from our survey of 191 COPS grantees regarding their retention plans, as well as the 149 individual audits of COPS and OJP grantees. COPS contends that the results of the surveys and audits support its contention that the grantees will retain the officer positions. We do not agree as discussed in the following paragraphs.
COPS states that 96% of 307 COPS Phase I grantees whose grant periods had ended confirmed on their final grant status reports that they had requested funding to retain the COPS officer positions beyond the life of the grant.
COPS position relies on the accuracy of the final grant status reports submitted by the grantee. COPS provided no indication that they obtained any documentation to support the grantees stated retention planning efforts in the status reports. Since our audits frequently show that the grantee status reports are inaccurate, COPS reliance on assertions by the grantees without any supporting documentation is misplaced and highly questionable. Further, COPS/OJPs response provides no information to support that the PHS grantees had retained the officers funded by their grants.
COPS states that it believes that requiring grantees to retain the positions for one full local budget cycle beyond the expiration of the grant is a sufficient requirement to impose on local grantees.
While COPS did not define what it meant by sufficient, this requirement will clearly not ensure that all COPS funded officers are on the streets by the end of FY 2000. As stated in the audit report, and not refuted by COPS in its response, at least 26,518 officers could be released before the end of FY 2000 because of this requirement. As such, this requirement alone could significantly undermine the likelihood that COPS will achieve the Presidents goal of deploying 100,000 officers to the streets by the end of FY 2000.
COPS states that our survey of 191 grantees confirmed that grantees intend to retain the COPS funded officer positions. COPS states that 96% of the surveyed grantees stated they would retain the positions. COPS further states that although we noted that 43% of these grantees indicated they had not developed a good faith plan to retain the positions, if the grantees were funded prior to June 1998 they were not required to develop a formal written retention plan. Accordingly, COPS stated that it is misleading for us to imply that failure to have such a plan is an indication that the grantees will not retain the officer positions. COPS had the same objection to the retention planning results we reported in our audits of the 149 individual grantees.
We disagree with COPS argument because our report does not state that the grantees surveyed did not have a formal written retention plan. Our report states that the grantees did not have a good-faith retention plan. As confirmed in COPS response, even prior to June 16, 1998, the grantees were required to plan for retention and document their retention efforts in budget requests, applications for other sources of state or local funding, meeting minutes discussing retention planning, and other tangible ways. If the grantees could provide such documentation during our survey, we concluded they had made good-faith efforts to retain. If they could not provide adequate evidence of good faith planning, we made recommendations that they develop a formal plan to remedy the apparent absence of such planning.
Recommendation 5: Resolved. We recommended that COPS establish a system to ensure that terminated grants are accurately reported and that related funding is deobligated.
COPS agrees with the recommendation and states that it has taken the following corrective actions:
COPS actions are sufficient to resolve this recommendation. To close this recommendation, please provide documentation showing the results (i.e., number of discrepancies found, total dollar amount of the discrepancies, and net dollar amount of the discrepancies) of the reconciliation process once it has been completed.
Recommendation 6: Closed. We recommended that COPS increase its monitoring of grantee compliance with reporting requirements to ensure that grantees submit the required program reports.
COPS agrees with the recommendation and states that, for the reporting period ended December 31, 1998, it established new procedures for ensuring timely submission and filing of the 1998 Hiring Progress Reports (Department Annual and Officer Progress Reports). In addition to hiring an outside contractor to facilitate the collection and data entry of the reports, COPS states that it has established new procedures for suspension of funding for agencies that fail to submit the required reports in a timely fashion. The new procedures involve: (1) explaining in the cover letter to the Hiring Progress Report Package that failure to submit the reports will result in the suspension of funding; (2) sending a delinquency letter to those grantees who do not submit the reports by the due date giving the grantee one month to submit the reports and reiterating that failure to submit the reports will result in suspension of funding; (3) sending a second delinquency letter to those grantees that still do not submit the reports and giving the grantees 14 additional days to submit the reports before suspending funding; (4) suspending the funding for grantees that remain delinquent after the 14 day period and informing the grantees of the actions they need to take to have their funding restored; and (5) restoring the funding for those grantees who remedy the non-compliance by finally submitting the required reports. COPS states in its response that as of July 1999, the new procedures have resulted in a 97 percent compliance rate for progress reporting and that the funds will remain suspended for the remaining 3 percent of grantees until the required progress reports are submitted. COPS also states in its response that it is negotiating the terms to renew the current contract, which ends December 31, 1999, to ensure these procedures are followed for the 1999 reporting cycle.
COPS actions are sufficient to close this recommendation.
Recommendation 7: Resolved. We recommended that COPS 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.
COPS agrees with the recommendation and states on that it has taken the following actions:
COPS actions are sufficient to resolve this recommendation. To close the recommendation, please provide documentation showing the tracking database was made available to all COPS divisions, once this action is completed.
Recommendation 8: Closed. We recommended that OJP increase its monitoring of grantee compliance with reporting requirements to ensure that grantees submit the required financial reports on time.
OJP agrees with the recommendation and states that it has taken the following corrective actions:
OJPs actions are sufficient to close the recommendation.
Recommendation 9: Closed. We recommended that OJP establish monitoring procedures for conducting follow up on deficiencies identified during site visits to ensure that grantees correct the deficiencies.
OJP agrees with the recommendation and states that it has taken the following actions to implement the recommendation:
OJPs actions are sufficient to close the recommendation.
Recommendation 10: Closed. We recommended that COPS continue efforts to strengthen guidance on critical grant requirements and distribute the revised guidance to all grantees.
COPS states in its response that the recommendation was a valid suggestion for improving the COPS Offices management and administration of its grant programs. COPS also states in its response that it has implemented the following actions to clarify guidance to grantees concerning essential grant requirements:
Because the corrective actions implemented by COPS effectively implement our recommendation, we consider the recommendation closed. However, even though COPS implemented the recommendation, COPS states in its response that it disagreed with the recommendation because it was based on the results of the 149 individual grantee audits that we conducted from October 1996 through September 1998. Although COPS agreed with most of our individual findings at the time, took corrective actions then, and since has made broader programmatic changes, it apparently wishes to continue to dispute those audits.
25 Our analysis of COPS/OJPs response to our summary report is at Appendix VII.
26 These annual audits are required by the Chief Financial Officers (CFO) Act of 1990. Since fiscal year 1996, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP has identified and reported recurring findings in the following areas of the COPS grant program: accruals, retention planning, supplanting determinations, and COPS monitoring of grantees. For FY 1998, PricewaterhouseCoopers considered these areas together serious enough to be classified as a material weakness in the COPS program.
27 See OIG Report 99-14, Police Hiring and Redeployment Grants: Summary of Audit Findings and Recommendations, October 1996 September 1998. The report is available on our internet site: http://www.usdoj.gov/oig.
28 While this policy was approved by the Attorney General, it was initiated by COPS (See Footnote 6).
29 COPS counts over 35,000 officers funded by the MORE program towards its goal of deploying 100,000 additional police officers.