Policy Change to Address AG Recommendation Regarding Conflicts of Interest
In December of 2013 the Florida Auditor General (AG) completed an
operational audit of the Beach Management Funding Assistance Program
(Program), formerly the Beach Erosion Control Program. In Audit Report
2014-064, one finding stated that… “Contractors selected to monitor
Program projects were not always independent of the feasibility, design,
and construction project phases.” The report included the following
“We (AG) recommend that Department management establish a standardized
review process and develop Program guidance for local sponsors addressing
the selection of contractors. The review process and guidance should
address the identification of potential conflicts of interest and require
that project monitors be independent of the Program project phases they
are to monitor.”
In an effort to comply with the recommendation, the program has hosted
a series of webinars to define conflicts of interest and develop a policy
to mitigate potential conflicts of interest to maintain compliance with
statutory authority in Chapter 287, Florida Statutes. The policy change
addresses conflicts of interest through transparency when state funding
is used to cost share in permit-required monitoring for beach and inlet
During the June 17, 2015 webinar, Department staff outlined the
following policy changes:
To be eligible for state cost sharing, monitoring activities will
- Direct and concurrent submittal of raw data and statistical
analysis from the monitor to DEP/engineer/sponsor
- Draft reports from the monitor can be submitted along with final
- Multidisciplinary engineering firms and subcontractors working in
support of the local sponsor must demonstrate the ability to provide
During public webinars and in various conversations with stakeholders,
several questions have been posed to the Department with regard to
implementation of the new policy. These questions are listed below along
with a response from the Department to assist stakeholders as we move
forward with implementing the policy change.
Frequently Asked Questions
Questions posed during Webinar 5, on August 20, 2015
Slide 12, “Goal”: Does the policy also pertain to actual
Conflicts of Interest, in addition to the slide that reads “potential
perception for conflict of interest?”
Yes. The program must mitigate all conflicts of
interest, whether actual or perceived.
Can monitors communicate with local sponsors/engineers during
field sampling in the event of weather delays, complications, etc.?
Communication regarding sampling logistics is
acceptable, such as timing, equipment issues, etc. However, any
communication that references a change in the approved monitoring
protocol, such as sampling location , frequency, etc. should be directed
to FDEP resources staff.
Will FDEP develop a certification form for demonstrating the
mitigation of conflicts of interest for multi-discipline or
Not at this time, since firms vary in
organizational structure and contracting protocol. A form may be
developed in the future, as similarities are identified. A memo/letter
report from each firm defining separation protocol will be adequate until
When should local sponsors begin planning for the policy
All sponsors should start planning for this
requirement immediately. FY2015-16 funds are available for contracting
and the new language will be incorporated into the contract template. Any
data sent or received after the execution of a new contract or an amended
contract will be subject to the reporting policy. The requirement will
not be retroactive, so any monitoring conducted and transmitted prior to
the execution or amendment of a grant agreement will not be subject to
the policy change.
Types of Monitoring
What type of monitoring is included in the Policy change?
The Program has specifically identified hardbottom, mangrove and
seagrass monitoring to be included in this policy.
What about physical monitoring and wildlife surveys, such as shorebird
and turtles? Shouldn’t the policy be consistent and pertain to all
monitoring required by permit?
Because some types of monitoring do not require interpretation of the
data collected, the Program does not see a significant benefit to
including physical monitoring (profile surveys and aerials) and wildlife
surveys (shorebird and turtle) in this policy change.
Data Submittal Protocol
How will this policy actually work?
- Biological monitoring is
comprised of three components: raw data, statistical analysis, and
the interpretive report. After monitoring data is collected in the
field and entered into a database, the monitor will QA/QC the raw
data and then provide the raw data to the Department directly and
concurrently with submittal to the engineer and local sponsor. (Note
that this is already a permit requirement for some projects and will
be added into new permits in the future.)
- When statistical analysis is
completed and QA/QC’d by the monitor, the statistical analysis will
be submitted directly and concurrently to the Department, the local
sponsor and the engineer.
How and where must a monitor submit data and statistical analyses in
order to be considered a direct submittal to the Department?
Data must be submitted electronically and in the approved DEP-format
as required by permit. The submittal must include a signed cover letter
noting the monitoring survey event, survey dates, project name and permit
number. If the statistical analysis is submitted separately from the
data, it must also be submitted with a signed cover letter noting the
monitoring event for the analysis including the project name, survey
dates and permit number. Submittals should be sent to
Is there a time limit/deadline for submittal of statistical analyses?
There is no set time for submittal of statistical analysis. A likely
time for the submittal is immediately before transmitting the report to
the local sponsor (permittee)/ contractor for review. The biological
monitor can simply extract and email the data analysis portion of the
report (this should be strictly statistical analysis, and should not
include interpretative results or conclusions) to DEP, local sponsor and
engineer. The report can then follow the permittee’s chain of review
protocol and be submitted to the Department when finalized.
Does the monitor have to provide the draft monitoring report to the
Department before it is submitted to the engineer and local sponsor?
No. This policy does not include the draft interpretive report created
by the monitor.
Can Local Sponsors and engineers participate in the field collection
Local sponsors and engineers can participate in field activities, but
for observation purposes only. Permits require that each crew member in
the monitoring firm be approved by Division of Water Resource Management
staff prior to data collection, to ensure that all individuals are
appropriately trained in biological monitoring techniques. Additionally,
data entry and QA/QC process must be conducted individually by the
Will this policy add additional tasks or costs to monitoring?
This policy will not require additional monitoring
tasks nor should it increase the cost of monitoring. Raw data is already
submitted to the Department in most permits and statistical analysis can
be emailed to the Department at a
Contracting and Demonstrating Separation of Tasks
Can I continue using my multidisciplinary firm if they also provide
both engineering and monitoring services?
Yes. One benefit to this policy change is that conflicts of interest
can be mitigated through transparency without requiring contracts to be
renegotiated. In order to ensure that the monitor avoids conflicts of
interest, the firm will need to illustrate to program staff the ability
to separate engineering and monitoring services during the data QA/QC
process and the statistical analysis portion of monitoring efforts.
Engineers may still assist with the drafting of the interpretive report.
If I have contracted a multidisciplinary firm, what does
“organizational/ physical/electronic” separation mean? Can engineers and
monitors work in the same location?
For this program policy, separation means having the ability for
engineers and monitors to work independently. We understand that firms
will be housed in the same building. However, data and information will
not be transferred between engineer and monitor, either in hard copy or
electronic media prior to submittal to the Department. Many such firms
may already have separation protocols established that are sufficient to
meet the program needs.
Can I continue having my engineering firm sub-contract monitoring
Yes. Like multidisciplinary firms, engineers will need to demonstrate
to program staff the ability to separate engineering and monitoring
services during the data QA/QC process and the statistical analysis
portion of monitoring efforts. Engineers may still assist with the
drafting of the interpretive report.
How will the policy be implemented?
Using the authority in section 287.057, Florida Statutes, the program
will amend the policy into the grant agreement template. Therefore, the
policy will be added to each grant agreement when it is initially
executed or upon amendment.
When will this policy take effect?
Once the protocol has been vetted with the coastal community, local
sponsors will be notified of the policy change and the grant agreement
template will be amended. Program staff anticipates the change to occur
in the Fall of 2015.
What if my project does not receive state cost sharing prior to
conducting the work but I hope to receive a reimbursement appropriation
in the next funding cycle?
To be considered eligible for state cost sharing reimbursement, the
policy must be followed on a voluntary basis once the policy is fully
adopted. Remember that most permits already require raw data submittal.
The only other change required in order to be compliant is direct and
concurrent data/statistics submittal to DEP prior to report review. In
the event that the local sponsor is using a multidisciplinary firm or
subcontracting monitors through the engineer, a demonstration of
independence of engineer and monitor will be required during the scope of
work review process.
What happens if I do not follow the data reporting protocol?
Monitoring tasks that do not follow the protocol will be ineligible
for cost reimbursement and appropriated funds for the associated
monitoring task will be subject to reversion to the state treasury to be
re-appropriated for another purpose.