Audit Finds Slow State Reimbursements Strain Local 9-1-1 Call Centers

BOSTON – An audit released today, August 31, by State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump found that the State 911 Department was not processing grant reimbursements to local 9-1-1

“When the state agency takes months instead of 2 to 3 weeks to reimburse local call-centers for the cost of operations, it puts an unacceptable financial strain on the locals,” said Bump. “Only one person was dedicated to processing reimbursement requests from the 249 call centers seeking funding through 6 different grant programs. During the audit period, there was a backlog of 975 requests.”

The audit also calls on local 9-1-1 call centers to regionalize in order to improve the quality of the services and reduce costs.

In 2008, the Legislature created a grant program for municipalities to obtain funding to conduct a feasibility study on whether to regionalize 9-1-1 operations; however, the audit found efforts to regionalize have been relatively ineffective.

Since this grant was established, 30 applicants, encompassing approximately 208 communities, have been awarded almost $3,876,784 to conduct feasibility studies, but only 14 applicants, encompassing 83 communities, have regionalized or are in the process of doing so.

“Massachusetts is an extreme outlier in the number of local call centers it maintains, and the nearly $4 million in grants to locals to explore regionalization has produced little result,” said Bump. “As a consequence, our consumers are paying more than they should and are not receiving uniformly good service. I urge the Baker-Polito administration and the Legislature to consider more aggressive management, more effective incentives, or outright mandates as possible solutions.”

The state’s 911 emergency service is funded by a surcharge on home and wireless telephones.

It was increased in 2015 from 75 cents per phone per month to $1.25 in 2016, and now stands at $1.00.

The surcharge increase was intended to fund technology upgrades to the 9-1-1 system.

The Commonwealth is home to 351 cities and towns, and as of December 31, 2014, there were 249 PSAPs in the state.

The Federal Communications Commission registry shows that Massachusetts is among the top 10 states with the highest number of PSAPs, despite being one of the smallest 10 states in square miles.

The Office of the State Auditor conducts performance audits of state government’s programs, departments, agencies, authorities, contracts, and vendors. With its reports, the OSA issues recommendations to improve accountability, efficiency, and transparency. The OSA has identified more than $1 billion in unallowable, questionable, or potentially fraudulent spending and saving opportunities for the Commonwealth since 2011. Auditees have implemented 95 percent of the OSA’s recommendations.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: Phone: 508-315-7176

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