International Cooperative Administrative Support Services



ICASS Service Center

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

10:00 a.m.

1.  Introduction of IWG Members and Attendees.

2.  Opening remarks by the IWG Chair, Philip French. Phil reported that Diplomatic Security shared a spreadsheet which provides contract expiration dates for Local Guard Force programs at overseas missions.

Phil also reported that 16 State 38718 has been sent to the field soliciting nominations for the ICASS Interagency Awards Program. The deadline for nominations is June 1, 2016.

The ISC is starting to review its meeting calendar for the next FY. Phil proposed that the IWG meet monthly, except for the months of June, August and November.

Steven Gibson, Policy Coordination and Training Team Leader, stated that DoJ had only four attendees registered for an upcoming “Basics of ICASS” webinar, and suggested it be opened up to other agencies to increase participation. There were no objections.

3.  Adoption of Minutes of the April 13, 2015, IWG Meeting: Adoption was seconded and approved with no changes.

Annual ICASS Customer Survey: Steven Gibson demonstrated how the statistical summaries (but not comments) for the Annual ICASS Customer Survey could be accessed and broken out by Post, Cost Centers and employee type, and that this information is available on the ISC metrics homepage. Comments from the survey are sent only to the Management Counselor/Office, DCM and Council chair, who decide how to distribute further. He noted the survey response rate this year was similar to last year’s despite the fact no deadline extension was granted. The bottom line was that overall customer satisfaction with ICASS has been going up steadily over the past five years.

Questions from the IWG focused on the survey methodology and distribution of comments. In response to a question about anonymity and the possibility of multiple responses to intentionally skew the data, Peter Hogan, ISC Deputy Director, said that according to the survey contractor, given more than 50,000 respondents, the numbers are difficult to game. As an example he cited one Post, where a review of a large decrease in satisfaction level in some Cost Centers revealed the drop was due to the loss of a particular customer service representative. Peter also explained how the ISC provides ICASS customers an open communication channel to Post leadership, and the anonymity of the survey helps ensure this. Peter and Steven showed how the survey results separate the feedback of the ICASS service providers from the non-service providers at post.

Responding to a question about how this information should be used at Post, Peter said that on a global basis, a 10 basis point shift in any one cost center year-to-year is considered reasonable. At the individual Post level, a 30 to 40 basis point shift annually should not be cause for alarm, given the smaller sample size.

4.  IWG Visit to the Diplomatic Pouch and Mail (DPM) Facility: Phil French reported on the IWG’s visit to the DPM Facility in SA-32. Originally expecting about a dozen participants, Phil reported that more than 50 people signed up. Because of the high demand, only IWG members could be accommodated. A total of 27 attendees (from 10 agencies) made the trip.

Rob Veale (DoD) asked how many pounds of groceries are being sent to Posts through the DPM, as Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) regulations allow for larger parcels than could be sent previously through APO/FPO. He stated some employees overseas receive a Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) to compensate for having to buy groceries on the local economy. This opened up a discussion on how the COLA is calculated and how availability of the DPO improves morale.

Sherrie Marafino, ICASS Service Center Director, said the Living Pattern Questionnaire asks respondents to differentiate between groceries and other items purchased on the local economy and those purchased from the U.S. or through the Military Exchange. In her observation, most people report use of the DPO, and this is factored into the COLA calculations.

It was suggested that Phil contact Jeff Meyer at the DPM center to collect and analyze the costs associated with the acceptance of larger parcels allowed at Diplomatic Post Offices at overseas Posts.

Homeland Security representative Doc Kosinski said his agency was still attempting to enter into an interagency agreement with DPM to fund bulk agency shipments. He stated that DHS is no longer allowed to simply provide a fund cite and that a formal interagency agreement is needed. He felt that an SOP should be developed with ALM/DPM to clarify the process. Phil agreed to follow up on this and report back.

5.  Furniture and Appliance Pool (FAP) Cost Comparison: Phil reported that at its December meeting the ICASS Executive Board (IEB) requested a cost comparison of pre-FAP vs. post-FAP. He and Nolan Leavitt (ISC) explained that while we have accurate cost data since the inception of the FAP, the ISC would not have data from the individual agencies on pre-FAP furniture and appliance costs. Nolan created a template that would enable agencies to enter their pre-FAP cost data, which would then be compared to post-FAP data provided by the ISC. The template was distributed to the IWG on April 14. The IWG discussed what would be required to complete the template and concluded that the data required to complete the study was either unavailable or would require an inordinate expenditure of time and resources to obtain. It was agreed that the FAP review now underway would be the best approach for ensuring cost effective management of the FAP program

6.  FAP Update: Janet Buechel reported that, with the FAP in its fourth year, the ISC has launched the FAP Program Review which will use the metrics and tools developed to manage the FAP. The goal of the Review is to have all posts re-examine their buy-in and annual assessment calculations and revalidate them. It will specifically target posts with a coefficient greater than 1.20; these posts must review their calculations; posts with a lower coefficient are encouraged, but are not required to revise their calculations. Additionally, the FAP Data Model has been updated to include a new column “value of assets per residence” which essentially calculates the average value of FAP assets in a residence. This amount is then compared to each post’s buy-in cost; allowing for a 30 percent adjustment to the average value. If the adjusted amount is significantly less than the post’s buy-in amount, post must review its buy-in list and calculations. Posts must submit their findings and recalculations to the regional bureau and the ISC for review and approval.

7.  Reports:

§  ISC Director’s Report: Sherrie Marafino reported on the ISC’s work with M/PRI, DS, CA, A/LM and FSI to develop a comprehensive audit program on internal controls, with the overall goal of fraud prevention. She introduced the State Department IWG Rep, Howard VanVranken who highlighted some recent specific cases of large-scale fraud committed at posts. The FSI Management Training program is also expanding its fraud prevention training to include all management professionals. A/LM is also looking at using data analytics to better identify items needing close watch at individual Posts. (The Director’s report is at the end of these minutes.)

§  Budget Update: Trish Garate (ISC) reported that annual hearings have concluded and the annual ICASS Budget for FY16 is set at slightly less than $3.3 billion for those posts where the State Department is the service provider, and approximately $16 million is budgeted for USAID alternate service provider posts. She also stated that a few remaining FY15 invoices are outstanding and that FY16 invoices will be sent by the end of June 2016.

§  Service Provider Update: Howard VanVranken, State SP Rep, reinforced the ISC’s Director’s comments regarding fraud prevention, saying the State Department recognizes there is a problem. He reminded the IWG that the State Department conducts several anti-fraud initiatives, including annual internal control certification and incorporation of internal control training for all managers, in addition to regular OIG inspections and encouraging use of and responding to tips from the Hotline.

§  Alternate Service Provider Update: Jeff Kramer, USAID, reported that USAID now is the ICASS service provider at six posts and all received an “A” on their annual budget scorecard. He introduced Mirela Kacevac, an LE staffer from Sarajevo, Bosnia, who is in Washington to participate as a co-presenter in USAID employee training on ICASS. USAID is providing comprehensive one-day ICASS training for all comptrollers and executive team employees (equivalent to State management team employees) going to post for the first time. Employees from ISC’s Policy, Coordination and Training team will participate in the training as instructors. Jeff stated that several agencies at ASP posts are in arrears for FY15. He is forwarding a list of these agencies to Trish at ISC. He said that past-due agencies need to reach out to the new POC at USAID: Justin Datta, (email: )

With no other issues on the agenda, Philip French reminded participants that the next meeting of the IEB will be on June 16th, hosted by DHS. The meeting was adjourned at 12:02pm.

May 11, 2016

TO: ICASS Working Group

FROM: Sherrie Marafino, Director, ICASS Service Center

SUBJECT: May 2016 Director’s Report

Outreach and Training

·  On Tuesday, 26 April, the ICASS Service Center concluded the third in a new series of webinars targeting specific ICASS Service Providers about workload counts and time allocations. These webinars were held on subsequent Tuesdays in April, and were timed to occur just prior to May 1, when this data is reported annually by service providers overseas for the next fiscal year’s billing cycle. The first, held April 12, targeted USDH and LE staff in HR sections overseas, the second, held April 19, targeted GSO sections, and the third, April 26 targeted employees in IM sections. There was record participation at each; this set of webinars will be expanded next year to include Facilities Management and Security Services.

·  On April 21, the ISC conducted an “Executive Summary of ICASS” series of webinars for the Department of Defense, held in collaboration with the Department of Defense Embassy and Consulate Services (DECS) office. US Air Force NORTHCOM was the featured DOD element for this webinar, offered twice that day. There were participants from several different DOD agency codes as well as from the Department of Homeland Security, who logged in from domestic and overseas locations.

·  On April 27, the ISC conducted its quarterly Executive Summary of ICASS for HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a regular feature of required orientation for CDC groups, especially the CDC/CGH (Center for Global Health) Office. The audience was comprised mostly or CDC personnel in Atlanta or elsewhere in the U.S., prior to being posted overseas, along with a participant from HHS/NIH and several CDC personnel already overseas.

·  On April 12, the ISC made a presentation to U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Mission Support HQ staff and several overseas staff on the Basics of ICASS. This particular DHS entity has a presence overseas in 26 countries and has an ICASS bill of approximately $14 million in FY16.

·  On May 6, the ISC participated in a combined session of PA230 (HR Management Overseas) and PA231 (General Services Operations) training at FSI, briefing HR, GSO and Management officers covering ICASS operations and current issues overseas.

·  On May 10, the ISC conducted the first of three briefings on ICASS for the DCM/Principal Officer’s Course at FSI. The ISC is regular participant in this program every summer.

Tour of Diplomatic Pouch and Mail Facility

Staff from the ISC also participated, along with the IWG, in a tour of the State Department’s Diplomatic Pouch and Mail (DPM) facility near Dulles Airport April 19, arranged by IWG Chair Philip French. During the tour, they saw the facility in operation and learned more about how personal and official mail as well as packages and bulk shipments are screened, categorized and distributed to posts worldwide.

Briefing to DOJ

ISC staff met with financial management staff from the Justice Management Division (JMD) of DOJ, FBI, and DEA to discuss an audit finding for DOJ related to how they account for ICASS invoices on their books. ISC briefed the staff on the ICASS recapitalization and regular invoice process, and shared with them how some other agencies treat those invoices for accounting purposes. It was revealed that FBI and DEA had not been recognizing the invoices in the same way, and JMD wants to ensure that all Justice units are following the same practice for consistency on financial statements. JMD staff indicated that the meeting answered all of their concerns about the ICASS process.

Internal Controls Working Group

The ICASS Service Center facilitated a meeting of the recently-formed Internal Controls (aka Fraud) Working Group, which includes participants from regional bureaus, A/LM, FSI, CGFS/Management Controls Office (CGFS/MC). The group reviewed three case studies, to be shared widely to increase situational awareness of fraud. More case studies will be drafted and shared, as a way to broaden awareness of the importance of effective internal controls in deterring fraud. FSI will incorporate the case studies into training, and the ISC and A/LM will collaborate on a webinar to highlight the issue and share data-mining tools that A/LM is developing. CGFS/MC shared some of the details of the process for determining changes to the guidance for the Ambassador’s Statement of Assurance.

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