Words like “compliance” or “regulation” often come to mind when people think of the concept of grant monitoring. But ensuring compliance is only a portion of what goes on within the COPS Office’s Grant Monitoring Division (GMD) each day.
In 1997 the GMD was formed as an essential entity within the COPS Office. Although the GMD exists in response to federal law requiring financial assistance from the COPS Office be monitored, the staff must balance a unique blend of activities to keep the GMD going, such as traveling extensively, using observation techniques, and providing hands-on customer service, among other activities.
The GMD’s three main goals are to: 1) assess the grantee’s compliance with regulations, terms, and special conditions of each grant awarded, 2) review the grantees’ community policing initiatives, and 3) provide customer service and technical assistance. To carry out the overall vision of the COPS office, the GMD is primarily responsible for conducting site visits, performing office-based grant reviews (OBGRs), and conducting alleged noncompliance reviews (ANCRs).
Although the Division’s Grant Monitoring Specialists, supervisors, and policy analyst work with other U.S. Department of Justice components, such as Office of Justice Programs (OJP) program offices and Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the GMD staff aims to serve state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and its territories, particularly before and during a site visit.
In the beginning of the fiscal year, monitoring sites are chosen based on the Grants Assessment Tool—a risk analysis rating system. Three to four weeks prior to a site visit, a Grant Monitoring Specialist (GMS) will typically contact a grantee by phone to confirm the site visit date. Once a date has been set, the GMS develops an official notification letter for the grantee offering guidance for site visit preparation and including a draft agenda. Site visits usually take one day to complete.
Each grant type requires different kinds of preparation and instruction by the Monitoring Specialist. “The most important thing grantees should know about the grants monitoring process is that it helps to promote effective and efficient grants management,” said Lead Grant Monitoring Specialist, George Gibmeyer, “including highlighting best practices for community policing and problem-solving.”
Grant Monitoring Specialists advise grantees to gather, copy, and review all documentation before visits. While specifically preparing for a hiring grants review, for example, grantees are directed to “gather and maintain key documentation” supporting entry-level officer hiring, including internal personnel documents showing hire and termination dates, salary, and fringe benefits. A GMS also encourages any grantees experiencing high turnover rates of sworn personnel to gather documentation demonstrating timely efforts to backfill vacancies. On the other hand, when preparing for project or program-based grants, such as the COPS Methamphetamine Initiative or Secure Our Schools, a Monitoring Specialist stresses the importance in reviewing the Final Financial Clearance Memorandum to “reconcile what was approved or allowed under the grant award based upon the initial budget submitted with the application.” The GMD also verifies that grantees request and obtain the COPS Office’s written approval for sole source justifications, excess daily consultant rates, and budget modifications.
The Division’s other two main responsibilities also require time, effort, and instruction to external customers. Office-based Grant Reviews (OBGRs) serve as a supplemental activity to site visits and enable specialists to review a specific and large grantee population. An alleged noncompliance review (ANCR) is when the GMD must examine internal (COPS) or external (citizen complaints) noncompliance allegations.
Even though the GMD works closely with the OIG and focuses on the same compliance areas as auditors—community policing activities, allowable costs, etc.—the GMD is not responsible for the auditing process. A Grant Monitoring Specialist can be confused with an auditor, but the two are strikingly different. The GMD focuses primarily on specific compliance issues, while auditors assess the grant recipients’ accounting systems. “It is important to keep in mind that a successful compliance review by a grant monitoring specialist does not guarantee a grantee will successfully pass an audit, due to the auditor’s level of scrutiny to a grantee’s fiscal practices,” Gibmeyer said.
While the GMD carries out its three main responsibilities, behind the scenes the Grant Monitoring Specialist might book travel, conduct preliminary grant reviews, log actions, draft agendas, determine compliance issue violations, and participate in internal workgroups on any given day. A GMS has the opportunity to see “firsthand how the grant money by the COPS Office is being spent and put to good use” by consistently assessing how COPS funds benefit communities throughout the United States.
HR Liaison Specialist
The COPS Office
To learn more about the Grants Monitoring Division, please visit http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/Default.asp?Item=83.
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