Dear Community Partners,
The Regional Park and Open Space District (District or RPOSD) would like to invite you to a second Town Hall tomorrow, March 4th, at 1:00 pm, to discuss the updated Measure A Grants Administration Manual (GAM). The District has received inquiries as to the rationale for the changes to the GAM. This narrative is intended to provide background as to the need to update the GAM.
RPOSD was the subject of an audit and investigation conducted by the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller (Auditor) from February 2020 to November 2020.
In 2019, prior to the investigation and audit, the District awarded approximately $3.5 million of Measure A funds, without a public contracting process or sole source justification. Five grantees were awarded grants, in varying amounts, for the provision of technical assistance (TAP). While funding was expended by the grantees, technical assistance was not rendered to the high and very high need communities. The Auditor’s investigation centered around these actions.
Based on the Auditor’s findings and the corrective action measures, the District began a detailed review of the GAM and focused on areas most problematic: failure to adhere to County contracting processes and the County Fiscal Manual, and lack of adherence to best practices in general for a public granting agency. The District looked to the California State Parks’ guidelines, so as to promote uniformity between the two public park grant programs.
Of the five grants inappropriately awarded by the District, RPOSD has successfully reconciled four of them. The District disallowed inappropriate costs such as non-park related expenditures. In addition, the District worked with some of the grantees regarding the excessive overhead rates billed to the District (in one instance, approximately 120%). The outstanding grant not yet reconciled, will result in considerable repayment to RPOSD, due primarily to a very large cash advance, which was permissible, but lacked oversight, under the old GAM.
RPOSD staff provided updates to the Measure A: Citizens Oversight Advisory Board, at the public meetings, regarding the pending audit, the attempts to reconcile and close the five grants, and the necessary revisions to the GAM due to the audit and investigation.
The Auditor’s Findings, released in November 2020, indicated that the District had the following areas of deficiency:
- Inappropriately awarded $3.5 million in grant funds to grantees without a competitive solicitation process;
- Provided grantees with large cash advances, in one instance $860,000, and allowed grantees to bank the funds while still submitting invoices to the District for payment; and
- Inappropriately approved for payment various ineligible expenses, in excess of $100,000, resulting in possible District losses.
The Auditor recommended as part of its corrective actions, that the District require increased oversight and a more rigorous review process of grantee billings, which are detailed in the updated GAM; increased training to District staff on the County’s contracting and fiscal policies and procedures; and revisions to the District’s policies so as to minimize the potential for financial losses, also included in the GAM.Accordingly, the updates and revisions to the GAM, recommended by the audit and investigation, are intended to restore public trust in the District, to minimize or eliminate the risk of misuse of public funds, and to obtain the highest quality services, in a competitive setting, as part of the District’s fiduciary obligation to taxpayers and to ensure that public funding directly supports the investments in park development in Los Angeles County.
With the audit, the investigation, and the GAM update completed, RPOSD is moving expeditiously to make available Measure A funding to support critical park, open space and trails projects. Here are additional updates about Measure A:
- To date, RPOSD has allocated approximately $229 million of Measure A funds.
- To address park equity, RPOSD is launching the Technical Assistance Program (TAP). TAP will provide up to $1,000,000 in funding to assist communities with the highest park need to develop park projects and write successful applications for the Measure A competitive grants programs.
- RPOSD launched an innovative RFSQ process for park development services, encouraging community based organizations, small local business and minority owned business, to be included in an as-needed services list that all cities and park development entities/agencies will be able to use and access to fast-track the development of parks projects in communities across the County.
- RPOSD will also open its first funding cycle for its competitive grants program, which will result in over $33 million in grant allocations, distributed as follows:
- Natural Lands, Local Beaches, Water Conservation and Protection ($14.1 million in grant allocations) offering opportunities to leverage funds with Measure W
- Regional Recreation Facilities, Multi-use Trails and Accessibility ($11.1 million in grant allocations) offering opportunities to leverage funds with Measure M
- Parkland Acquisition ($8.2 million in grant allocations) offering opportunities to leverage funds with State Prop 68 for new park development
Parks, like never before, have been a refuge for LA County residents during the pandemic. We have a historical opportunity to invest in refurbishing and building new parks in communities that not only have high park need, but have also experienced the most significant impacts of COVID. Investing in parks in high park need communities and throughout the County will serve as symbols of healing and physical evidence of resilience. RPOSD looks forward to our partnership.I look forward to seeing you at the upcoming GAM Town Hall on Thursday, March 4th at 1PM.