Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services


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NYS Comptroller


Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services
Awarding and Oversight of Statewide Interoperable Communications Grants

Issued: July 18, 2017
Link to full audit report 2016-S-90
Link to 90-day response

To determine if the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services awarded contracts to entities that met eligibility requirements and if the Division provided adequate oversight of the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant awards to ensure grant funds were allocated and spent for intended purposes. This audit covered the period from April 1, 2010 through April 5, 2017.

The Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (Division) oversees and directs the development, coordination, and implementation of policies, plans, standards, programs, and services related to interoperable and emergency communications. Within the Division, the Office of Interoperable and Emergency Communications (Office) is responsible for administering the Statewide Interoperable Communications Grant (SICG) program, which awards grants to counties to help them enhance their emergency response capabilities to support statewide communications between emergency responders (interoperable communications).

The SICG program is funded by cellular communications surcharge revenue. From December 21, 2011 through March 29, 2017, the Division awarded 137 grants in five rounds of funding totaling $292 million. For Rounds 1 through 4, which were distributed between 2011 and 2015, contracts were awarded based on a combination of pass/fail and scored evaluation methods, and distributed based on total score, highest to lowest; Round 3 eligibility was limited to counties that applied but did not receive any funding in the previous rounds. For Round 5, the Division determined awards using a formula-based system. In Round 5 of funding, issued in March 2017 and totaling $45 million, all counties that applied for grants received funding.

Funds are distributed through vouchers that counties submit to the Division for reimbursement of expenses. The Division is responsible for reviewing vouchers to ensure expenses are appropriate and consistent with contract requirements. Counties are required to maintain all supporting documentation of expenses and to make this documentation available upon request. The Division also monitors counties’ activity through site visits, telephone calls, and Regional Consortiums to ensure counties are making improvements appropriately and timely.

Key Findings

  • The Division awarded SICG funding to qualified recipients in accordance with its requirements. The Division assessed and re-evaluated its eligibility criteria after each round of awards was issued to ensure that the SICG program would achieve its intended goal of statewide interoperability.
  • The Division is generally meeting its obligations for ensuring that grant funds are appropriately allocated. We did, however, identify certain process deficiencies in the areas of monitoring and documentation that could increase the risk of inappropriate use of funds and hinder the Division’s progress toward statewide interoperability.
  • The Division does not have procedures in place to conduct regular site visits to physically verify the status of counties’ projects. When site visits are conducted, staff are not required to document results for progress tracking purposes.
  • The reimbursement voucher approval process does not have a mechanism in place to trigger closer scrutiny of larger voucher amounts, which pose a higher risk of misuse. Furthermore, staff are not required to document instances where they’ve identified questionable voucher requests and requested additional documentation for review, which limits the Division’s ability to monitor counties for potential patterns of misuse.
  • The Division’s policy regarding documentation for grant extension requests is not clearly stated, nor does it strictly enforce its documentation requirements.

Key Recommendations

  • Develop procedures that will enhance monitoring of SICG grants, including (but not limited to) site monitoring and improvements to the expenditure reimbursement approval process.
  • Identify and assess reasons for past inconsistencies in approving grant extensions and implement additional controls to ensure compliance with Division requirements.
  • Provide training to the counties to ensure they are aware of the requirements they must meet to obtain contract extensions.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

New York State Homes and Community Renewal: Low-Income Housing Trust Fund Program (2013-S-32)

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Brian Reilly
Phone:(518) 474-3271: Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236