(a) Establishment of the performance reporting system.
(1) The State agency shall establish a continuing performance reporting system to monitor program administration and program operations. The method for establishing each component of the system is identified and explained in subparts B through F of this part. The components of the State agency's performance reporting system shall be:
(i) Data collection through management evaluation (ME) reviews and quality control (QC) reviews;
(ii) Analysis and evaluation of data from all sources;
(iii) Corrective action planning;
(iv) Corrective action implementation and monitoring; and
(v) Reporting to FNS on program performance.
(2) The State agency must ensure corrective action is effected at the State and project area levels.
(b) Staffing standards. The State agency shall employ sufficient State level staff to perform all aspects of the Performance Reporting System as required in this part of the regulations. The staff used to conduct QC reviews shall not have prior knowledge of either the household or the decision under review. Where there is prior knowledge, the reviewer must disqualify her/himself. Prior knowledge is defined as having:
(1) Taken any part in the decision that has been made in the case;
(2) any discussion of the case with staff who participated in the decision; or
(3) any personal knowledge of or acquaintance with persons in the case itself. To ensure no prior knowledge on the part of QC or ME reviewers, local project area staff shall not be used to conduct QC or ME reviews; exceptions to this requirement concerning local level staff may be granted with prior approval from FNS. However, local personnel shall not, under any circumstances, participate in ME reviews of their own project areas.
(c) Use of third party contractors. Any State agency procuring services of a contractor for quality control related services, including any project or training that involves the interpretation of SNAP regulations, policies, or handbooks for quality control or payment accuracy purpose, must ensure that all activities and deliverables performed by the contractor within the scope of the contract adhere to Federal law, regulations, and policies. Activities performed or deliverables provided by a contractor that are not in accordance with Federal law, regulations, or policies are unallowable SNAP administrative costs and are not eligible for Federal reimbursement.
(1) For expenses related to the hiring of a contractor for any quality control related work to qualify for SNAP administrative cost reimbursement under § 277.4(b), FNS requires the following:
(i) The State must notify FNS in writing of its intent to hire a contractor at least 30 days prior to entering into the contract to do so. The notification must include a copy of the selected contractor's complete proposal, which must receive FNS approval before the State may proceed with the procuring the contract.
(ii) Once the contract is procured, the State must submit to FNS a copy of the signed contract and documentation that outlines all tasks and deliverables to be performed or produced by the contractor.
(iii) The State must submit to FNS a copy of all deliverables, including any training materials, provided by the contractor.
(iv) The State must notify FNS of the date, time, and location of any training sessions led by the contractor at least 10 days in advance of the training. FNS shall be allowed to attend any such training session with or without providing prior notice to the State agency or the contractor.
(v) If the State discusses individual sampled cases with the contractor, the State must document, within the case file, the contents of the discussion and any action taken by the State as a result of the discussion. If the discussion occurs orally, FNS shall be given notice 24 hours in advance of the discussion and shall be allowed to participate in the discussion. If the discussion occurs in writing, the State must ensure that FNS is copied on all written correspondence discussing individual sampled cases.
(2) Copies of documentation and notices required in paragraph (c)(1) of this section must be provided to the appropriate FNS Regional SNAP Director.
(3) In accordance with the non-procurement debarment procedures under 2 CFR part 417, or successor regulations, FNS shall debar any person that, in carrying out the quality control system, knowingly submits or causes to be submitted false information to FNS.
(4) Compliance date: Paragraph (c)(1) of this section contains information-collection requirements. Compliance with paragraph (c)(1) will not be required until this paragraph (c)(4) is removed or contains a compliance date, after review of such requirements by the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act.
(d) FNS Access to State Systems. Subject to data and security protocols agreed to by FNS and a State agency administering SNAP, each State agency shall ensure that FNS has complete access, including remote access for QC purposes, to both the records that are used in the administration of SNAP, including but not limited to the records contained within certification and EBT systems, and the information systems in which such records are contained.