Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2014 Vol. 61 No. 8

Normal federal grant guidance and rules also apply to Stafford Act grants. These are in addition to the normal FEMA rules that may be more familiar emergency management professionals.

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, FEMA and TDEM were much more focused on rules found in the guidance on specific FEMA programs. After Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike and the passage of the Improper Payment Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA), there has been a greater focus placed on compliance with all federal grant and procurement rules. [The IPERA was passed in 2010 and requires federal agencies to conduct expanded and more rigorous recovery audits to identify and recapture improper payments, including payments without proper supporting documentation.]

Hurricane Annex cover

Federal grants come with a wide variety of rules and regulations that must be followed. Some of the most important of these are:

Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 13 - Uniform Administrative Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements to State and Local Governments.

Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 200 - OMB Circulars A-21, A-87, A-102, A-110, A-122 include information on Federal Cost Principles and A-133 contains rules on requirements for Audits of States, Local Governments and Non-Profit Organizations

Having financial and procurement professionals involved in disaster response and recovery can be instrumental in ensuring that financial rules and regulations related to federal grants are followed.

It is vitally important that the accounting and procurement professionals are on the ground as part of the overall team when disaster strikes. Emergency managers should be working with their finance and procurement office and, if they have one, their grant office when dealing with FEMA disaster grants. These offices can assist in:

  • Tracking the receipt and use of all federal funds;
  • Tracking and collating costs for the preliminary damage assessment in a way that can easily be retrieved;
  • Knowing and following general federal rules related to grants, accounting and procurement; and
  • Tracking administrative costs, keeping good grant, procurement and accounting records and required federal equipment inventory logs.

During preliminary damage assessments (PDAs) accounting and procurement professionals can assist with:

  • Making sure staff is tracking costs related to the disaster separately from normal duties;
  • Providing methods to document cost in a way that can be used later to determine to which project particular costs belong;
  • Ensuring that costs are tracked by county for entities such as utilities or state agencies that have staff in multiple counties.
  • Tracking emergency repair work taking place prior to the granting of federal aid – including keeping good records  that can be used to establish their costs; and
  • Making sure federal procurement rules are being followed in the response and recovery effort.

Working with grant and accounting professionals once disaster grants are written and scope and deadlines have been established can help with:

  • Tracking all costs to each project and keeping good records that can be used to request reimbursement;
  • Keeping work within the scope set up during grant approval;
  • Working to get prior approval for changes in project scope;
  • Acting as a monitor to keep projects on time and to request extensions when required; and
  • Keeping payment requests and project closeouts timely.

Working with your procurement staff related to disaster response and recovery can be vital in following these important concepts required of procurements made with federal funds:

  • Competitive, competitive, competitive
  • Using emergency contracts for the shortest period and only until competitive contracts can be let
  • Using competitively bid contingency contracts that are ready to go when a disaster strikes whenever able
  • Documenting the reason an emergency non-competitively bid contract was used and ensuring the reason is covered by federal rules
  • Checking vendors on state and federal debarment lists and keeping documentation of the checks
  • Avoiding cost plus or piggyback contracts
  • Ensuring that the contract terms are followed
  • Making sure that contract amendments are not so significant that they affect competition
  • Ensuring that lease amounts on equipment do not exceed overall cost of the equipment
  • Ensuring time and material contracts have a ceiling
  • Making sure costs for different projects can be clearly seen in the invoicing and receiving reports and that contracts require that kind of specificity
  • Keeping copies of all relevant procurement, invoicing, payment, payroll, project management, equipment use logs or other relevant record in a file for each projects that can be audited or reviewed to establish that all federal rules were followed

Your inventory staff can assist you entity in:

  • Ensuring that any equipment bought with federal funds is marked, logged and tracked over the useful life and
  • Ensuring property bought with federal funds worth more than $5,000 is disposed of properly, including notifying TDEM who will determine if FEMA wants a portion of the proceeds of the sale.

Both FEMA and TDEM are being required to account more closely and strictly to oversight authorities and they are in turn passing on those compliance standards to entities receiving disaster grant funds.  I cannot stress enough how important financial and procurement professionals are in making sure an entity can maximize federal disaster grant reimbursements. 

Please bring your financial and procurement professionals into your Emergency Management Team before the next disaster strikes. 

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