To make certain that emergency response agencies receive reimbursements on time, Cal EMA should establish procedures to ensure that paying entities do not delay reimbursements.
Since our last annual update, Phase II of the reimbursement program has moved forward. Cal OES is currently in the process of hiring Limited Term Information Technology positions to manage, design, implement and conclude the project for statewide use and distribution amongst the fire service as well as the signatory reimbursement agencies. Cal OES' continuous goal of improving and speeding up the reimbursement timelines is one of our agency's highest priorities and is always at the forefront of our day-to-day operations and business.
We are targeting December 2018 to have the first phase of the new system implemented.
Since our last annual update, Phase II of the reimbursement program has yet to move forward. The business requirements for this program have been prepared and are being prioritized for bidding. Cal OES continues to work cooperatively with the reimbursement entities to minimize delays, and it continues to be our goal to find ways of improving and speeding up the reimbursement timelines.
Since our last annual follow up, all signatories have signed the 2015-2019 California Fire Assistance Agreement and is currently in use. However, with the negotiation process, new procedures were required and implemented for Local Government to receive reimbursement. Cal OES Fire and Rescue staff is working diligently to implement the required changes to expedite our processing, and we continue to work cooperatively with the reimbursing entities to minimize any potential delays. Cal OES will begin to plan Phase II of the new mutual aid reimbursement program soon. Cal OES appreciates the State Auditor's time and attention to this matter, and we will continue to provide updates as we make progress toward full implementation.
The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) will fund phase II of the new mutual aid reimbursement program. However, due to the nature of the California Fire Assistance Agreement and the process of negotiations that support changes in administering the agreement, the negotiation process has taken a year to accomplish. We are currently anticipating all signatories approve the revised agreement. In light of not receiving all signatures to date, the implementation process of phase II is temporarily on hold until all terms of the agreement are finalized.
The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is identifying funding for Phase II of the new mutual aid reimbursement program. The new program will include a web based platform that will allow local government fire agencies to access their respective salary surveys and invoices on-line. This will allow local government fire agencies to interact via the web based platform and view and complete their own respective pay documents in a timely manner, thus, expediting the reimbursement process. Furthermore, we are ensuring the procedures are in place to effectively and efficiently address the reimbursement timelines.
According to Cal EMA it has completed and finalized the first phase of MARS. Since the implementation of MARS in July 2012, Cal EMA stated it has been transitioning from its previous system and has continued to use the previous system to avoid delays in its timely reimbursement process. Cal EMA also stated it is currently sampling fire incidents from the past fire season to test and validate MARS. Once the testing is complete, Cal EMA will begin utilizing MARS to process invoices for all incidents. Finally, Cal EMA stated it is exploring the second phase of MARS, which will include a Web-based platform that will allow local government fire agencies to access their respective salary surveys and invoices on line and to view and complete their own respective pay documents in a timely manner, thus, expediting the payment process.
Cal EMA stated that it is difficult to ensure that paying entities do not delay reimbursements for those emergencies or disasters that are not reimbursed under FEMA's Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) Program. Under the FMAG, states can submit a request for assistance to FEMA at the time a major disaster exists. Cal EMA stated that, because it administers the entire FMAG process, it is able to prioritize workload and expeditiously submit to FEMA the project worksheet that documents the scope of work and cost estimate for each project. However, Cal EMA stated that it has little or no control over reimbursements for FEMA's Public Assistance (PA) Program. Under the PA, states can submit a request for assistance so that they can quickly respond to and recover from major disasters and emergencies declared by the President. CAL EMA stated that, because it jointly administers the PA Program with FEMA, it is difficult to ensure the expeditious processing of project worksheets that require several layers of federal review and subsequent funding obligations. Further, to ensure that paying entities do not delay reimbursements for mutual aid provided under the California Fire Assistance Agreement (CFAA), Cal EMA is implementing a new Mutual Aid Reimbursement Program that focuses largely on migrating from a Lotus Notes application to a Web-based application. Cal EMA stated that this system will produce a stable platform and build in appropriate business rules to more effectively administer the CFAA terms and conditions and reduce reimbursement timelines. According to Cal EMA, the first phase of this new program was deployed in July 2012 and eliminated many workarounds and limitations found in the current system. (See 2013-406, pp. 71-72)
Agency responses received after June 2013 are posted verbatim.