Q1: What is the PQA Program?
A1: The Payment Quality Assurance (PQA) Program is an element of USAC's effort to ensure universal service program integrity. Under this program, USAC assesses individual payments made to beneficiaries to determine if the right amount of money went to the right place for the right reasons. USAC uses PQA results to generate reliable estimates of improper payments in the four universal service programs, as required by federal law.
Q2: When did the PQA Program start?
A2: The PQA Program started in August 2010.
Q3: Are PQA assessments the same as audits?
A3: No. PQA assessments are not audits. They are not performed by auditors. They do not require on-site work by USAC staff. They take significantly less time than audits. They are meant to gather information about individual payments and generate estimates of program-wide rates of improper payments. Audits, on the other hand, focus on annual payment amounts.
Q4: Will USAC still conduct audits?
A4: USAC will conduct hundreds of audits each year of universal service contributors and beneficiaries under the Beneficiary and Contributor Audit Program (BCAP). These audits are designed to measure and ensure program compliance and might result in recoveries of universal service disbursements.
Q5: How many PQA assessments does USAC do in each program?
A5: The number of ongoing PQA assessments fluctuates from month to month. USAC performs 20-90 assessments at a time in each program.
Q6: Who actually conducts the assessments, USAC or an outside firm?
A6: USAC contracts with an outside firm to provide staff to conduct PQA assessments. USAC exercises program management and oversight responsibility of the PQA Program.
Q7: Is participation in the PQA Program mandatory?
Q8: How much time will it take to carry out the request for documents?
A8: It will take participants varying periods of time to gather the requested documents, depending on the volume and accessibility of documents requested. When fewer documents and/or simpler data are requested and beneficiaries have ready access to the information, gathering the materials should take a matter of hours. With more documents, more complicated data, and/or more difficulty getting access to them, beneficiaries will need more time to comply with the request. High Cost, Lifeline, Rural Health Care, and Schools and Libraries Program participants have 10 business days to provide documents.
Q9: Who do I call to get help?
A9: You may call USAC. Selected participants receive a notification letter by email that provides contact information for beneficiaries to call for assistance with understanding and fulfilling PQA Program requirements.
Q10: When are documents due to USAC?
A10: Documents for the High Cost, Lifeline, Rural Health Care, and Schools and Libraries Programs are due within 10 business days of receiving the notification letter.
Q11: How do I submit documents to USAC?
A11: You may submit documents in various ways, depending on the nature and volume of information you are submitting. Although email is preferred, fax and U.S. mail are acceptable ways to submit documents. When submitting documents or replying to emails, please ensure that the unique assessment case number assigned by USAC is included on each document and/or in the subject line of the email.
Q12: Can I get an extension to my deadline for submitting documents?
A12: While assessments must be completed in a timely fashion, USAC recognizes that program participants may have extenuating circumstances preventing them from complying with stated program deadlines. In such cases, USAC will consider requests for extensions and provide them on a case-by-case basis.
Q13: How will I find out the results of my assessment?
A13: USAC will deliver results of your assessment to you within 90 days of receiving your submitted documentation.
Q14: Will I have to give money back to USAC if my assessment identifies problems?
Q14: PQA identification of an error will lead to further review and potential recovery. USAC will conduct follow-up outreach and/or expanded work on assessments, if the results of the assessment warrant it. Any recoveries would result from demonstrated rule violations associated with the payment under assessment. In addition, USAC will recover disbursed funds if beneficiaries do not respond to document requests sent with notices of selection for participation in the PQA Program.
Q15: What is USAC doing with the results of all the assessments?
A15: USAC will aggregate results of individual assessments and calculate estimated rates of improper payments for each program. USAC will then deliver these estimates to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for reporting that is required of all federal agencies under the Improper Payments Information Act of 2002 (IPIA) and the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA).
Q16: For the Rural Health Care and Schools and Libraries Programs, does the PQA Program cover service providers or just applicants?
A16: At this time, the PQA Program will assess payments only to applicants.
Q17: How can I contact USAC?
A17: For PQA questions, you can email, call, or send us correspondence through U.S. mail.