Pressed by Senate critics to specify how quickly schools and libraries could expect to receive their E-rate funding commitments, Schools and Libraries Corporation CEO Ira Fishman predicted July 15 that they would be distributed "sometime early this fall."
The process will be delayed further by a new SLC pledge to implement four recommendations that auditors from the General Accounting Office made for tightening up its Program Integrity Assurance reviews. In a report issued at a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee, the GAO said that before the SLC issued any funding commitments, it should:
- Conduct detailed reviews of a random sample of applications to assess not only the soundness of the applications, but also the SLC's program integrity procedures.
- Finalize the procedures, automated systems and internal controls for the post-commitment phase of the program's funding cycle, including the disbursement of funds.
- Obtain a report from Coopers & Lybrand, the SLC's independent auditor, with assurances that the SLC has developed an appropriate set of internal controls to guard against waste, fraud and abuse.
- Review the technology plans and related documents of applications identified as "high risk" to determine whether the applicants have the resources to effectively use the services requested and whether the applications are in compliance with FCC rules.
The GAO said, "Waiting until after commitment letters have been issued will make it difficult for the corporation to take effective actions to correct any systemic problems in the application review procedures and could put the corporation in the position of having to withdraw funding commitments from applicants, even those who have begun receiving services from vendors. Similar issuing commitment letters before all of the program's operating procedures, systems and internal controls have been finalized and verified…would put the program's integrity at risk."
(See also FCC Chairman Kennard's open letter to SLC CEO Ira Fishman https://transition.fcc.gov/Speeches/Kennard/Statements/stwek855.html)