Sneak Preview: Oversight of Broadband Program Deemed Inadequate

January 22, 2016 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xsass_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Single Audit Information Service.) The Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has updated its guidance regarding the sale or lease of property purchased with Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) award funding, and will provide ongoing technical assistance regarding property management requirements, in response to a recent Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General audit that found that NTIA’s oversight regarding the management of BTOP-funded excess equipment was inadequate.

The broadband program was established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to provide and improve access to broadband services, specifically to customers residing in unserved and underserved areas, to community organizations and to public safety agencies. The inspector general audit focused on the oversight of BTOP comprehensive community infrastructure awards.

The inspector general reviewed nine BTOP grant recipients from March 2014 through February 2015 to: (1) determine whether the recipients purchased equipment beyond program needs; (2) assess NTIA’s procedures for identifying recipients maintaining excess inventory; and (3) evaluate NTIA’s procedures for disposition of excess BTOP award inventory. The inspector general defines BTOP excess inventory as federally purchased equipment that remains unused and on hand after the award recipient and the NTIA grants office ensure that project activity is complete and the award recipient has met all the requirements under the terms and conditions.

Because the BTOP funds were issued prior to Dec. 26, 2014, ARRA requirements and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circulars, rather than the OMB’s uniform grant guidance, apply to these grants. These regulations require that institutions of higher education, hospitals, and nonprofit and for-profit organizations may retain, sell or dispose of equipment procured with grant funds that is no longer needed by the recipient and has a per-unit market value of less than $5,000. For equipment with a per-unit fair market value of $5,000 or more, the recipient may retain the equipment for other uses, provided that it pay compensation to NTIA or the federal government. If it has no need for the equipment, it must request disposition from the grant officer. State agencies that are BTOP recipients must follow their state laws and procedures to use, manage and dispose of equipment acquired under the grant, although NTIA should still account for the amount of excess equipment the recipient has on-hand, and the need for the equipment, upon grant closeout.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site.)

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