Category Archives: State Agency

Bond Accountability: How to Make it an Everyday Thing

June 22, 2017

The following is being shared as a courtesy to our members from the California Debt & Investment Advisory Commission (CDIAC).

In compliance with federal and state legislation, California public agencies are expected to establish and maintain internal control systems to account for and report on the expenditure of funds. There is an abundance of resources available to administrators that provide guidance on the development of internal control systems. [1] When applied consistently and correctly these controls can provide both the agency and the public an assurance that the funds are being properly managed and accounted for.

That being said, not all agencies apply the same system of controls they may have developed to manage general governmental funds to their bond funds. Even if they do, the system of controls used to account for and report on bond expenditures may not be fully integrated into the agency’s administrative structure even though doing so may ensure it is consistently applied.

This article is designed to provide readers a framework to understand internal control systems as they apply to bond funds and then, more importantly, present ways to bridge the gaps that often exist between a preexisting control system and the ongoing administration of bond funds.

Fundamentals of an Internal Control System

In December 2015 the Task Force on Bond Accountability released its Final Report summarizing its efforts to develop best practice guidelines on the fiduciary care and use of state and local bond proceeds. [2] The guideline adhered to the COSO framework for internal controls provided in the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Green Book. This consists of five elements:

Control Environment–An agency’s control environment represents the formal structures, goals, and objectives that form an internal control system. This includes the personnel–elected or appointed, the policies and procedures directing their activities in support of the control system, and the authority provided to those with oversight roles, including external bond oversight committees.

Risk Assessment–Within the context of a bond program, risk assessment is the process of identifying objectives and assessing the likelihood that risk events will occur and unfavorably affect the agency’s achievement of those objectives. The assessment of risk provides the basis for developing appropriate measures to manage risk.

Control Activities–Control activities are the actions the public agency takes through policies, procedures, and the delegation of duties to achieve its objectives and mitigate risk. The system of internal controls may vary, depending on the size, nature, and organizational complexity of the agency, but it must address the identified risks.

Information and Communications–As guardians of public funds, public agencies have a fiduciary responsibility to adopt a system of internal controls that provides a reasonable assurance that the agency is properly receiving, managing, and disbursing bond funds. Information and communication facilitates accountability and performance tracking.

Monitoring–The effectiveness of any set of internal controls is a function of its ability to mitigate risk. Since risks and program activities change over time, the internal control system must be dynamic, able to respond to changing requirements, staffing, and agency objectives. By monitoring the effectiveness of the control system, agencies can more readily adjust to these changing conditions.

Making the Control System part of the Agency’s DNA

An agency’s control system is effective only if it is consistently and universally employed. Agencies can ensure that this happens by operationalizing the control system in: 1) the agency’s plans, policies, and procedures; 2) the controlling bond documents; and 3) staff training.

Plan, Policies, and Procedures—Public agencies are guided by a number of plans, policies, and procedures when issuing and administering debt. These include a debt policy, investment policy, disclosure policy, as well as a capital improvement or facility management plan. These may be used to express elements of the control system to increase the likelihood that they will be carried out. Debt policies that call out the uses of debt, the types and terms of a debt issue, the responsibilities of the agency and staff for ongoing reporting and disclosure, the administration of debt-related payments, the uses to which the proceeds may be spent, can drive specific control activities.

Administrative policies and procedures often spell out the separation of duties between staff as well as procedures, timelines, and schedules to process specific actions. With regard to the disbursement of bond funds, for example, the agency’s policies and procedures may identify nonconforming transactions or exceptions that warrant immediate action, such as errors and discrepancies or changes in the payee name designation.

As funds are disbursed, policies and procedures may require staff to review expenditure plans, to seek legal review of contracts and agreements, to conduct site visits, and to maintain records of assets or portions of assets being financed. They may additionally set forth the content and timing of reports provided to any oversight committee or community interest groups.

Controlling Bond Documents—To strengthen compliance with policies and procedures, public agencies should integrate elements of the control system into bond documents. These include, among others, the indenture, the trust agreement, the tax certificate, the continuing disclosure agreement, and any agreements with insurers or other credit providers. The process must begin during the pre-issuance phase, during which the agency should account for all documents that will direct the roles and activities governing the investment and administration of bond funds and ongoing reporting and compliance.

Elements of the control system correspond to the specific content of most indentures, making linking the two fairly straightforward. For example, the typical indenture addresses the structure of accounts used to receive bond funds, the “waterfall” of revenues and payments, covenant restrictions, reserve maintenance and security, requirements for the disbursement of construction funds, and the terms for the trustee to safeguard and release funds. Each of these fits nicely into one or more control activities. Likewise, the trustee agreement contains terms that address financial and administrative management. Seeing that it contains language the clarifies the trustee’s role as a fiduciary when holding and investing bond funds, guaranteeing reserve requirements, monitoring bond covenants, and maintaining current balances on bond funds increases the likelihood that the agency’s control system is active and not reactive.

Agencies can use the tax certificate to establish and test control procedures to validate expenditures, including requirements for the use of proceeds, the timing of disbursement, requirements and limitations on the use of construction funds, private use restrictions, and, of course, the timing of arbitrage and yield restriction filings.

Finally, the continuing disclosure agreement provides the framework for ongoing reporting to investors and regulatory agencies and, in so doing, establishes measures to assess compliance and avoid problems. The agreement, in most cases, addresses filing requirements, the materials to be included, and the dates of submission.

Ongoing Staff Training—Public agencies can better ensure that their control system are active and employed by staff by providing training and communicating plans, policies, and procedures. Training should be provided to members of the governing body and oversight committees as well as service providers, such as auditors, who may need insights into the agency’s control system in order to perform their duties. Some agencies may need more frequent training on one or more elements of the control system. For example, agencies that use a conduit financing structure, may decide to train staff on control activities addressing expenditures and to review and update the training program to reflect improvements or changes in the control system.

Final Thoughts

Issuers enhance the expectation that they will timely and fully meet their repayment obligations through the development and application of a well-designed internal control system that tracks, monitors, and reports on the use of bond funds. Once adopted, however, issuers must take steps to institutionalize these control measures. If the agencies control system is integrated into and supported by its plans, policies, and procedures and expressed in controlling bond documents it is more likely to be applied. Furthermore, education and communication are the cornerstones of effective administrative processes. Agencies that undertake the work to articulate their control system in this manner and to train staff will undoubtedly derive material benefits in the form of better financing terms.

CDIAC has an upcoming seminar on ongoing bond administration on September 6th in Sacramento. Registration is available on CDIAC website: www.treasurer.ca.gov/cdiac.

[1] For information on establishing and implementing internal controls, see Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Sept. 2014, available at http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665712.pdf, hereafter GAO Standards for Internal Control (“Green Book”); see also Gauthier, Stephen J., An Elected Official’s Guide: Internal Control, Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), 2015, and Internal Control – Integrated Framework (2013), Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO), May 14, 2013.

[2] Task Force on Bond Accountability, Task Force Final Report, December 14, 2015 available at http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/tfba/final_report.pdf.

DSA Seeking Input from Access Stakeholders

June 9, 2017

The Division of the State Architect Access Compliance Team (DSA) and the University of California, Davis Extension Collaboration Center (UC Davis) are seeking your involvement in the design of a new consultative body, a diverse representative alliance created to provide feedback to DSA on proposed amendments to the California Building Code (CBC) regulations that affect individuals with disabilities. UC Davis will serve as a neutral facilitator to gather stakeholder input to help design the alliance. Once the alliance is formed, UC Davis will organize a kick-off workshop to provide training to support the effectiveness of the alliance in its role in DSA’s code development process.

At this time, UC Davis is soliciting information through an anonymous survey. Please take a few moments (5 – 10 minutes) to complete this survey, which can be accessed at: www.surveymonkey.com/r/DSAAccess.

Your response to the survey will be sent directly to UC Davis. Please return your survey response by June 19, 2017. Upon conclusion of the survey process, UC Davis will share a summary of the survey results and the next steps with DSA and the recipients of this email, in July 2017.

Should you have any difficulty accessing the survey, please contact ida.clair@dgs.ca.gov.

Thank you for your participation, as we take a big step forward in ushering in a new era of improved stakeholder collaboration in the code development process.

SAB Takes Action on Upfront Agreement & Beyond Bond Authority Project List

On Monday, June 5, 2017, the State Allocation Board (SAB) took action on two key policy issues that are critical to the implementation of Proposition 51: a) Regulatory Amendments for Increased Program Accountability (template for Upfront Grant Agreement); and, b) School Facility Program (SFP) Applications Received Beyond Bond Authority List (how to proceed with projects on the Acknowledged List). These proposals were originally scheduled to be adopted at the SAB meeting on April 24, 2017, but the action was deferred to a later date due to concerns with the draft prepared by the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC).

Fourteen CASH members testified during the hearing including Chair Don Ulrich (Clovis USD), Vice Chair Julie Arthur (Palm Springs USD), Immediate Past Chair Jenny Hannah (Kern HSD), and board members Rob Pierce (Elk Grove USD) and Alan Reising (Long Beach USD). The following is a summary of the actions that the SAB took on these agenda items:

Upfront Grant Agreement
The SAB voted to approve the Upfront Grant Agreement and conforming regulatory amendments, approved the projects on Attachment #5 for placement on the Unfunded List (Lack of AB 55 Loans), and exempted these projects from the Grant Agreement requirement. CASH and the education community had advocated for changes to the Grant Agreement, which were incorporated in this approval. These changes include:

  • Changes to the eligible expenditures list to expand eligibility of freezers, refrigerators, and exercise equipment.
  • The option of project-specific guidance letters incorporated by reference into the Grant Agreement – allows districts to achieve certainty on unusual project expenditures, ensuring auditors will allow.
  • The Grant Agreement is required at fund release, not as a condition of apportionment.
  • Projects on the True Unfunded List are exempt; the grant agreement still applies to all projects on the Acknowledged List.

The Grant Agreement as adopted includes a significant policy change by making educational technology, including computers and printers, an ineligible expenditure.

Beyond Bond Authority List
After extensive discussion and testimony from CASH board members and members of the education community, the SAB voted to approve “Option 1” which requires new construction projects on the Acknowledged List to re-justify their eligibility for the enrollment year in which the application was processed by OPSC, without losing their place in line. The biggest policy debate of the evening was whether schools should be required to update eligibility, or if projects would be processed with eligibility at the time of submittal. Projects that would no longer be eligible under updated eligibility have the right to submit an appeal to the SAB.

CASH would like to thank our members for their dedication and commitment to qualifying, approving, and now working to implement Proposition 51.

~ CASH Staff

CASH Alert: Encouragement to Attend the June 5, 2017 SAB Meeting

May 26, 2017

On Monday, June 5, 2017, the State Allocation Board (SAB) will meet at 4:00 pm in Room 437 of the State Capitol to consider recommendations on the proposed Grant Agreement, True Unfunded List, and Acknowledged List. Click here to see the CASH letter addressing these proposals.

We encourage you to attend the SAB meeting and speak to your specific concerns about the proposals and how they will affect your school district or client district.

More information will be provided during the CASH Monthly Update Meeting also scheduled for Monday, June 5, 2017, at 11:00 am in the Lower Level Conference Room A at 1130 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95814.

We additionally would like to further encourage you to communicate your concerns directly to your State Senators and Assembly Members. The district draft letter found here, may be a resource in doing so.

~ Tom Duffy

Seminars from the California Debt & Investment Advisory Commission

May 26, 2017

PUBLIC FUNDS INVESTING WORKSHOP: USING MS EXCEL

AUGUST 23, 24, 25, 2017  |  OAKLAND, CA  |  COST: $100 PUBLIC, $230 PRIVATE
This one-day workshop offered on three consecutive days uses Microsoft Excel to further participants’ understanding of key investment concepts. Participants will engage in interactive learning using their own laptops or tablets and spreadsheets to familiarize themselves with the relationship between yield, duration, and convexity. The workshop will conclude with an exercise on benchmarking. The class is limited to 20 participants per day. More information. Register.

ONGOING DEBT ADMINISTRATION

SEPTEMBER 6, 2017  |  SACRAMENTO, CA  |  COST: $150 PUBLIC, $250 PRIVATE
This seminar is designed to provide government officers with the knowledge needed to manage their responsibilities for continuing disclosure, compliance with federal arbitrage rules, and the investment of bond proceeds. Complying with both national and state-level reporting will be discussed. This seminar differs from CDIAC’s bond accountability and transparency program as this curriculum focuses on the larger practices of living with an issue over the life of the bond. More information. Register.

CDIAC’S 16TH ANNUAL PRE-CONFERENCE AT THE BOND BUYER‘S 27TH ANNUAL CALIFORNIA PUBLIC FINANCE CONFERENCE

SEPTEMBER 25, 2017  |  CARLSBAD, CA
More information coming soon.

CASH Urgent Action Alert: Letters Needed from School District Members

May 24, 2017

Dear CASH School District Member:

We are writing to request your help in communicating with your representatives in the State Senate and the State Assembly to ask for their direct action to assist us in:

  1. Focusing legislative pressure on the Department of Finance (DOF) to increase school bond sales for matching funds through Proposition 51 in years 2018 and in 2019; and
  2. Communicating to the State Allocation Board (SAB) concerns as to how the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) and DOF are proposing to treat districts projects negatively that are on the “Acknowledged List.”

Unfortunately, in the May Revision the DOF did not change the state’s plan to sell only $600 million in Proposition 51 bonds between now and June 30, 2018. That rate of bond sales will not even cover the new applications being filed, much less the current $2.4 billion waiting list.

In communicating with your legislative representatives we ask that you cite specific information about your District’s projects waiting for state bond funding, including estimated state bond funding amounts. We request that you speak to the need to increase state bond sale amounts for purposes of funding your projects and the $2.4 billion in the pipeline waiting for funding.

It is important to note here that it has been proposed by OPSC that the SAB consider sending projects on the “Acknowledged List” back to the applicant school districts, thus denying funding to those projects.

To date, there are $2 billion on the “Acknowledged List.” This is a combination of new construction and modernization projects. If your District has projects on the “Acknowledged List” we advise that you specifically identify those projects to your representative and detail the negative impact that the proposed action to deny funding to the “Acknowledged List” will have on your District.

We suggest also that you communicate your concern regarding the proposed OPSC/DOF “grant agreement” that is intended to be applied retroactively to all projects waiting for funding, notwithstanding the fact that contracts have been signed or that projects have been completed and occupied.

The Legislature needs to hear directly from you about the specific harm that the proposed OPSC and DOF actions will have on your district.

Again those proposed actions are:

  1. Limit bond sales;
  2. Reject projects waiting for funding on the “Acknowledged List;” and
  3. Require that a grant agreement is signed for each project retroactively.

Please review the draft letter that you may use to write your own request that the state sells more bonds faster.

Please send your letter to your State Assembly Member and State Senator.

Thank you in advance for your assistance on this matter of importance.

~ Tom Duffy

May CASH Day & SAB Meeting Rescheduled to June 5

May 15, 2017

The May 24 State Allocation Board meeting has been canceled. The next State Allocation Board meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 5 at 4:00 pm at the State Capitol, Room 437.

The CASH Monthly Update and Annual Conference Planning Committee meetings will also be rescheduled for Monday, June 5.

~ CASH Staff

OPSC Holds Second Stakeholder Meeting on the Front-End Grant Agreement

May 8, 2017

Today, the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) hosted a stakeholder input session to receive additional feedback on the proposed front-end grant agreement for School Facility Program projects. The grant agreement was initially presented to the State Allocation Board (SAB) for discussion on April 24, 2017. At that time, the SAB did not have enough votes to pass the grant agreement as drafted, and they deferred action until the May SAB meeting.

OPSC staff began today’s stakeholder meeting by stating that concerns related to the audit trailer bill language should be brought to Department of Finance. OPSC staff then outlined items that they have identified for possible amendment prior to the next SAB meeting. Topics included, but were not limited to:

  • Which documents applicants are required to attach
  • Inclusion of a “site description”
  • Whether the definitions section should be limited to items that are unique to the grant agreement
  • Timing of when grant agreements should be executed
  • Laws and regulations with which applicants must comply
  • Impacts to the Priority Funding process
  • Expenditure report due dates and substantial progress
  • Hold harmless/indemnity provision
  • Eligible and ineligible expenditures

The issue of outlining a list of eligible and ineligible expenditures generated the most stakeholder feedback and discussion. Numerous stakeholders were concerned that expenditures on items not explicitly listed on the eligible expenditures list would not be accepted by local auditors. There were concerns that the proposed agreement would reduce the flexibility that districts have under the current grant program structure. There were also concerns voiced on behalf of Financial Hardship districts and county offices of education, which would have difficulty identifying local dollars to fund “ineligible” items such as computers.

OPSC’s goal is to bring an amended agreement to the next SAB meeting on May 24, 2017. They anticipate that the updated draft grant agreement will be available approximately one week prior to the hearing date and that the SAB agenda item will identify stakeholder feedback similar to the April agenda. OPSC anticipates that a larger regulations package will need to be brought to the SAB after the Legislature approves, and the Governor signs, the audit trailer bill language.

If you have feedback that you would like to provide, OPSC is still accepting comments on the grant agreement and requested that comments be submitted within the next few days. The current version of the grant agreement under discussion may be found here.

~ Rebekah Cearley

OPSC Stakeholder Meeting Notice for May 8, 2017

April 27, 2017

The Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) has scheduled a stakeholder meeting for Monday, May 8, 2017, at the Department of General Services, Ziggurat building, Auditorium in West Sacramento.  The meeting is scheduled for purposes of discussing and receiving feedback related to the specific language and wording in the proposed draft grant agreement for the School Facility Program.  The NOTICE (PDF) has been posted to the OPSC website at www.dgs.ca.gov/opsc under Meeting Information and on the State Allocation Board webpage.  This meeting will also be webcast.

 

April 24, 2017 State Allocation Board Meeting – Webcast

April 26, 2017

The April 24, 2017, State Allocation Board Meeting webcast has been uploaded to OPSC YouTube for your viewing pleasure.  We apologize for the webcast link not working properly and for inconvenience this may have caused.  Thank you.

~ CASH Staff