Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many compliance departments already faced hurdles in securing adequate resources to execute compliance work plans and support the organization’s compliance program. Now, many Compliance Officers (CO), along with other non-revenue-producing departments, are being required to furlough or lay off staff at a time when the regulatory environment is changing almost daily.
PYA recommends COs take these six immediate steps, should they experience staffing cuts, to mitigate risks:
- Meet with senior leadership to determine regulatory issues the organization is currently facing due to the pandemic, and develop a clear plan to monitor and comply with related reporting requirements.
- Track these regulatory issues, their requirements, and the organization’s documented response. Documentation of the organization’s actions is critical for potential future audits.
- Assign follow-up action for any changed processes due to the relaxed regulations—changed processes such as:
- Evaluate the current compliance work plan and reprioritize work plan items based on risk and available staff. Communicate the revised work plan, and any risks/challenges, to the CEO and Board chair immediately—do not wait for an audit committee meeting.
- Ensure ongoing compliance with any current enforcement action against your organization. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Office of Inspector General (OIG) have been clear that they are operating “business as usual” as it relates to enforcement action, and “there are no free passes.” If you are in danger of missing performance metrics or deadlines due to the pandemic, reach out immediately to your regulatory contact to discuss options.
- Prioritize and delegate the core compliance function activities among the remaining compliance department staff based on expertise and skill to maximize efficiencies. Communicate changes to other departmental leaders, as applicable.
- Evaluate tasks the compliance department staff currently performs that may not be core compliance functions (e.g., tasks related to the implementation of the Seven Elements of an Effective Compliance Program as described by the HHS-OIG). Work with leadership to re-assign unrelated tasks to the appropriate department.
- Evaluate any newly assigned responsibilities or tasks to determine if they will jeopardize the ability of the compliance department to be viewed as independent from operational responsibility. If independence is jeopardized, elevate this concern to leadership for specific consideration. While it may be necessary to absorb these responsibilities as the entity responds to COVID-19, reestablishing independence should be a priority once operations stabilize.
If you are struggling with reprioritizing your compliance activities or have COVID-19 regulatory-compliance-related questions, visit PYA’s COVID-19 hub, or contact one of our PYA executives below at (800) 270-9629.