The Office of Community Services awarded four new contracts that will help support improved program integrity in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
On September 28, 2012, the Office of Community Services (OCS) awarded four new contracts that will help support improved program integrity in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). These contracts are designed to begin the implementation of recommendations from the Program Integrity Working Group (PIWG) and the Performance Measures Implementation Working Group (PMIWG). The result of these contracts will be a challenging national undertaking requiring unprecedented levels of communication and coordination among Federal offices and State and Tribal LIHEAP grantees over several months. Our goal is to revitalize LIHEAP performance management, assure high standards of accountability for federal funds at all levels of LIHEAP administration, and to help prepare communities to most effectively address the home energy needs in a dramatically transforming economy.
This letter describes new program integrity initiatives for the Division of Energy Assistance (DEA) in the upcoming fiscal years (FY 2013 – FY 2014). As described below, the contracts have been awarded to develop a national partnership focused on program integrity and performance management, some major expected milestones for the implementation of PIWG and PMIWG recommendations in the upcoming year, and answers to some anticipated questions. We encourage all LIHEAP grantees to review this letter and to share it within your local agency networks so that recipients of LIHEAP funding on all levels (federal, state, and local) have access to the same information.
Key partners in the OCS process for improving program integrity include direct LIHEAP grantees as well as contractors whose contributions are described below:
- The competitive contract for LIHEAP Accountability and Third Party Verification Support has been awarded to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NEADA). This contract will systematically investigate options for applying third-party verification processes to enhance program integrity. It will assess grantee capacity for this work and prepare a cost-benefit analysis as recommended by the PIWG. Once an approach has been approved by OCS, the contractor will produce a plan for implementation. Initial use of the selected protocol will be voluntary, but to support our comprehensive efforts to improve program integrity, OCS will seek authority to require participation.
- The competitive contract for a LIHEAP Web-Based Data Collection Tool has been awarded to Applied Public Policy Research Institute for Study and Evaluation (APPRISE). This contractor has extensive experience supporting the work of the PMIWG and establishment of data collection and analysis tools. The contract will implement many of the recommendations of the PMIWG by creating a web-based tool that will systematize the process of reporting and analyzing of LIHEAP performance measures. The contract will also systematize grantee reporting of required data from the OCS LIHEAP Grantee Survey and LIHEAP Household Report. The work under this contract will be guided by continued involvement of the PMIWG. The contractor will develop a product with input from all key stakeholders and will create tools for web-based data collection that can be used by grantees and their local agencies to set and meet goals for high-quality data collection and performance management. Improving DEA’s ability to collect, analyze and report accurate data in a timely manner will require standard reporting formats and templates and consistent definitions and measures. Voluntary compliance with data collection procedures need to be strengthened to assure consistency and OCS will seek authority to require grantees to use prescribed formats.
- The competitive contract for LIHEAP Programmatic and Financial Review Support was awarded to the National Association of State Community Services Programs (NASCSP). This contract will provide increased resources for oversight and monitoring the use of federal funds through LIHEAP programs. This contract expands the human resource capacity of OCS for conducting compliance reviews (both on site and desk reviews). It will add primarily fiscal experts for this purpose. This contract is intended to help OCS continue and expand its efforts in preventing, detecting and resolving fraud in the program.
- The competitive contract for LIHEAP Training and Technical Assistance Support was awarded to NEADA. This contract seeks to enhance understanding and implementation of the program integrity, data reporting and performance measurement initiatives Major activities of this contract include:
- Develop a consistent, streamlined federal training curriculum to cover such topics as program integrity, performance measurement/management, and key programmatic areas (e.g., eligibility verification, vendor agreements, administrative costs, carryover, etc.);
- Convene and provide logistical support for four national webinars for LIHEAP grantees;
- Provide on-site technical support for selected grantees to resolve compliance review findings.
- Convene and provide logistical support for a national LIHEAP conference conducted by OCS to provide training and opportunities for grantee to have peer-to-peer exchanges on best practices. This conference will be held in FY 2013 and will afford OCS the opportunity to share progress toward the goals outlined herein. We will inform you as soon as possible of the scheduled date for this meeting so we can be assured of your participation. This meeting will be a forum for sharing of information and a discussion of improvements that we want to achieve and obstacles that we and you will face doing so.
DEA takes the need to increase program integrity seriously. Congress and the Administration expect us to be strong stewards of federal funds and provide assurance that there is no fraud, waste or abuse. We intend to meet their expectations. However, we are also dedicated to conveying the positive impact LIHEAP is having on America’s low-income communities. In order to do so, we need stronger measures of LIHEAP performance. These data must be accurate and timely, so that OCS and our grantees can, manage LIHEAP more efficiently and continue to make a difference in the lives of millions of people. Enhancing the positive benefit of LIHEAP will require all of us working together in order to be successful.
We appreciate the conscientious and diligent work of the PIWG and PMIWG, involving both State grantees and local level providers. It is our intent to continue the work of these groups and to implement their recommendations through these contracts.
OCS recognizes that success will require cooperation and collaboration among all LIHEAP stakeholders. We are excited about the bold beginning that is under way and plan to keep all our partners informed and engaged.
Jeannie L. Chaffin
Office of Community Services