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The Emergency Witness Assistance Program
Report Number I-2001-002


The EWAP allows the USAOs to provide emergency services to witnesses that are not available through other programs. A USAO is not required to use the EWAP. The USAO decides whether a witness or potential witness should be provided assistance in accordance with EOUSA's program guidelines. At the time of our review, 81 USAOs collectively had spent $1,745,134 of EWAP funds since April 1997 to provide assistance to 852 witnesses. Appendix IV shows the number of witnesses assisted and EWAP funds expended by each USAO. Based on our review of records and interviews with Victim-Witness Coordinators and AUSAs, we found that the EWAP has helped witnesses to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Several AUSAs stated that some witnesses would not have testified without assistance provided through the EWAP. The following table shows by fiscal year (FY) the use of the EWAP.

Table 1. Use of the EWAP by USAOs

  FY 1997
(beginning April 1, 1997)
FY 1998 FY 1999 FY 2000
(through May 17, 2000)
Number of USAOs Using EWAP 38 63
(includes 32 new users)
(includes 7 new users)
(includes 4 new users)
EWAP Funds Spent $115,463 $592,712 $638,461 $398,498 $1,745,134
Number of Witnesses Assisted 118 262 321 171 872a

Source: EOUSA.

aThis total number of witnesses includes 20 witnesses that received assistance during two fiscal years. These 20 witnesses are counted in both fiscal years. Witnesses that received multiple periods of assistance during the same fiscal year are only counted once for that fiscal year.

At the time of our review, only 12 of the 93 USAOs had not used the EWAP2. We contacted the Victim-Witness Coordinators in these 12 USAOs and in 6 other USAOs with minimal EWAP use to determine the reasons for the lack or low level of use. The coordinators stated that the EWAP is considered a valuable tool; however, several factors have affected these USAOs' lack of use of the program:

USAOs are Generally Complying with EWAP Requirements

To determine compliance with EWAP guidelines, we reviewed five USAOs' EWAP records for 250 witnesses that had been provided assistance. These records generally reflected appropriate completion of required EWAP forms and use of funds. The predominant expenses for witness assistance were for relocation (payment of the first month's rent and security deposit), transportation, hotel accommodations, and temporary subsistence. Requests for witness assistance that exceeded established time and funding limits (30 days/$4,000) or that involved unusual types of assistance had been approved by EOUSA. The following examples of witness assistance illustrate how the USAOs have used the EWAP in the prosecution of serious crimes:

In our sample of records, instances of non-compliance were infrequent. Most of the instances of non-compliance pertained to incomplete submission of required EWAP documents (described in Appendix III) to EOUSA's EWAP Program Manager. Six records were missing the required Acknowledgment form. Three records were missing information on the Request form that addressed how the witness was involved in the case, the expected testimony of the witness and its importance to the case, the reliability of the witness, and the threats to the witness. One record was missing the approved Request form-only the Expense Summary was on file. Three other records reflected reimbursement to witnesses for relocation expenses that the witnesses had already paid. Reimbursement of expenses paid by witnesses is not allowable according to EWAP guidelines. In these three instances, the Program Manager informed the USAO that reimbursement was not an acceptable practice.

The EWAP funds are to be used to allay the fears of witnesses so that they will testify on behalf of the prosecution. To determine whether witnesses that received EWAP funds cooperated with prosecutors, we examined EWAP records at the USAO-DC for 68 witnesses. Fifty-three of the records showed that the witnesses had cooperated or testified with federal prosecutors.4 For the remaining 15 witnesses, their records did not contain this information. Therefore, we surveyed the AUSAs that had prosecuted the cases about the cooperation and testimony of the witnesses assisted through the EWAP. In all cases, the AUSAs stated that the witnesses had been cooperative throughout the judicial proceedings and had testified.

Witnesses May Need Additional Assistance

As a result of their cooperation with the government, some witnesses may experience problems that were not envisioned by the AGAC and EOUSA when the EWAP was developed. The USAO-DC has dealt extensively with witnesses whose needs have extended beyond the usual parameters of the EWAP.5 The USAO-DC is responsible for prosecuting both federal and local cases within the District's boundaries and annually handles approximately 300 federal cases and 20,000 local cases. The USAO-DC has used the EWAP more than any other USAO, providing assistance to 241 witnesses (19 for federal cases and 222 for local cases) and spending over $480,000 since the program's implementation in FY 1997.

The USAO-DC's Victim-Witness Assistance Unit, which administers the USAO's EWAP, counsels witnesses about the EWAP's intended purpose and the witnesses' continued responsibilities with regard to debt, child custody, child support, court, or other obligations while receiving assistance through the program. The Unit, as needed, encourages and assists witnesses to plan for how they will resume their life activities after EWAP services end. However, during our on-site visit to the USAO-DC, the Chief, Victim-Witness Assistance Unit, stated that many of the District's witnesses live in disadvantaged circumstances and often do not have the life skills or financial means to be self-sufficient, especially after receiving EWAP funds and cooperating with federal prosecutors. Witnesses that required temporary lodging to remove them from potential danger may be unable to return to their residences because of the continued threatening neighborhood environment (e.g., the presence of family and friends of gang members that the witnesses testified against) or because of their financial situation (e.g., while in temporary lodging, the witnesses lost their permanent housing due to unpaid rent). The result is the witnesses may have no place to go and be left homeless. Although the EWAP is intended for short-duration assistance, witnesses that cooperate with the government may face longer-term repercussions. In these instances, the Victim-Witness Assistance Unit coordinates with local social agencies to obtain services and provides EWAP funds for permanent relocation.

The workload associated with assisting witnesses with their longer-term personal needs has been difficult for the USAO-DC's Victim-Witness Assistance Unit. To better help witnesses become self-sufficient after their involvement with EWAP ceases, the Chief, Victim Witness Assistance Unit, believed that the Unit needs a witness advocate position. The incumbent of this position would work directly with witnesses and local social service agencies to develop individual action plans for the witnesses and obtain services for assisting the witnesses in re-establishing themselves. The Chief, Victim Witness Assistance Unit believed the continued assistance to witnesses is important to furthering the mission of the USAO. If witnesses in need are left with no "transition" assistance, then the cooperation of those witnesses and other witnesses in the USAO's cases may diminish. However, according to a former EOUSA attorney who helped create the EWAP, the additional services are outside the scope of the EWAP funding. Although the USAO has no other program available to help witnesses that face life-changing situations because of their involvement in judicial proceedings, the EOUSA's EWAP Program Manager stated that EOUSA was not considering expanding the EWAP's permissible uses to address such issues.


At the time of our review, all but 12 of the 93 USAOs had assisted witnesses through the EWAP. We found that the program has provided short-term assistance to witnesses and helped them to cooperate with federal prosecutors. From our sample of EWAP files, the USAOs were generally adhering to program guidelines; instances of non-compliance were infrequent. We found that the USAO-DC has encountered complicated situations in the aftermath of providing emergency assistance to witnesses that require financial assistance and social services that are not covered within EWAP guidelines.


  1. The Director, EOUSA, should determine whether the USAO-DC should use EWAP for longer-term witness needs or assist the USAO-DC in identifying other ways to address the USAO's unique witness issues.

EOUSA's Administration of the EWAP Should be Strengthened

The EOUSA has an important role in ensuring that Department programs are implemented efficiently and effectively throughout the USAOs.6 As such, the EOUSA must implement the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 ("Results Act"), which holds federal agencies accountable for achieving program results. The Results Act requires agencies to set multiyear strategic goals and corresponding annual goals, measure performance toward the achievement of those goals, and report on their progress. Although the Results Act addresses the major functions and operations of agencies, the concept of measuring outcomes to improve effectiveness applies to all programs. Setting goals and measuring performance helps to communicate accomplishments, establish priorities, control operations, and motivate staff.

As part of the Department's effort to improve the justice system, the Department established a strategic objective to meet the needs of, and uphold the rights of, victims of federal crimes and witnesses in federal cases.7 The participation of victims and witnesses in the judicial process is essential to the prosecution of federal cases.

The EWAP, which provides the authority and funding for USAOs to help witnesses cooperate in judicial proceedings, is part of the Department's core function of, and strategy for, protecting the federal judiciary and improving the justice system.8 The EOUSA, however, has not established program goals and performance measures for the EWAP nor assessed its effectiveness. Periodic review of the EWAP to measure program performance against program goals, especially during the EWAP's initial years of implementation, would provide EOUSA with important information about program achievements and limitations in meeting the needs of the Department.9 This information should contribute to decisions concerning the program's future.

To assess the EWAP's performance, the EOUSA must collect and analyze timely and relevant program information from the USAOs. At the time of our review, the EWAP Program Manager monitored the USAOs' compliance with program guidelines through receipt of completed EWAP forms and quarterly reports10 that show the amount of EWAP funds obligated, spent, and remaining and that describe program accomplishments. If EWAP funds have not been used or services provided to witnesses, a USAO must still comply with the quarterly reporting requirement and inform EOUSA of the program inactivity. Based on our sample of EWAP records, the USAOs have usually submitted the required copies of their EWAP forms to the Program Manager. However, the USAOs have not consistently submitted their quarterly reports to EOUSA's Resource Management and Planning Staff (RMPS). The RMPS official for the EWAP account stated that the lack of reporting has been a continual problem and attributed the non-compliance to the fact that the USAOs' Victim-Witness Coordinators are busy with other responsibilities. These quarterly reports should be a primary source of information for EOUSA to monitor program performance and funds management. Without the reports, EOUSA's overall monitoring efforts have been limited. The EOUSA has sought to address the lack of reporting by reminding USAOs in advance of due dates, following-up with USAOs to obtain missing reports, allowing electronic submission of reports, and developing an easier report format (implemented beginning FY 2000). However, at the time of our review, these actions had not appreciably affected the USAOs' response to the quarterly reporting requirement. For example, by February 15, 2000, 54 USAOs had not reported their lack of use of the EWAP for the quarterly reporting period ending December 31, 1999.11

In addition to the low number of USAOs submitting reports, EOUSA's program monitoring has been further hampered by the contents of the reports. Based on a sample of the quarterly reports, the "program accomplishments" section merely summarizes services provided to witnesses—information that is already available to EOUSA from the EWAP forms submitted by the USAOs. Because the EOUSA has not defined the type of data needed to measure program performance, the USAOs may submit information in their quarterly reports that is not sufficient for the EOUSA to assess the EWAP's effectiveness.

Along with improving its procedures for monitoring program performance, EOUSA should improve its procedures for monitoring the USAOs' financial management of the EWAP. On March 12, 1999, the RMPS issued guidelines to the EOUSA's Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee and Victim-Witness (LECC/VW) Staff that described procedures for tracking funds for several programs, including the EWAP. The procedures require the LECC/VW Staff to advise the RMPS on a weekly basis of new EWAP fund allocations to the USAOs. The procedures also establish monthly meetings between the LECC/VW Staff and the RMPS to discuss the EWAP account. The RMPS is responsible for providing a status of the allocation and spending of funds by USAO and highlighting those USAOs that are exhausting or exceeding their authorized funding levels. The LECC/VW Staff is responsible for contacting these USAOs to resolve any allocation issues. The LECC/VW Staff is also responsible for providing RMPS with a copy of the action taken by the USAO to correct the issue such as the LECC/VW Staff's approval authorizing the USAO additional funds to cover the excess costs. If additional funds are authorized, the RMPS should update its records to reflect the additional approved funds.

These procedures, however, have not resulted in consistent and accurate review of EWAP financial data by the EOUSA. For four of the five USAOs12 that we reviewed, we identified discrepancies between the financial data in the Department's Financial Management Information System (FMIS) and the actual expenditures for witnesses reflected in the records maintained by the EOUSA's EWAP Program Manager.

At the time of our review, the RMPS official responsible for monitoring the EWAP account believed the totals reflected in the FMIS were accurate and was not aware that discrepancies existed. The EWAP Program Manager also was not aware that the FMIS did not match some of her records. During a meeting on February 6, 2001, the RMPS official and the Program Manager explained that the discrepancies could occur because of the USAOs' lag time between posting actual EWAP expenditures in FMIS and sending the EWAP Expense Summary forms to EOUSA.13

The EOUSA must also ensure that the USAOs are appropriately managing their EWAP credit cards. According to RMPS guidelines issued May 23, 1997, for use of the centrally billed credit card for EWAP expenses, the EOUSA should receive and review monthly reports to monitor payment performance of the USAOs and may request cancellation of credit card accounts that are overdue. Guidelines issued by the Director, EOUSA, on March 13, 2000, established timelines for EOUSA to suspend or cancel a USAO's EWAP credit card and third-party check system in response to delinquent credit card payments. Although only a few USAOs have had overdue EWAP accounts,14 the untimely payment of the credit card bills is a breach in responsible financial management and may indicate more serious breakdowns in internal controls at the USAOs.15

For the USAO-DC, the overdue credit card bills were for $46,200 and were the result of significant deficiencies in oversight practices. The USAO-DC did not consistently follow its EWAP implementation plan and EOUSA's financial guidelines to ensure that EWAP forms were completed and approved before program funds were expended. During FYs 1998 and 1999, the USAO's Victim-Witness Assistance Unit used the EWAP credit card for $46,200 in expenditures that were not documented, not approved, and not obligated in FMIS for tracking and payment purposes. As a result, the USAO's monthly credit card bills for the EWAP could not be reconciled and paid on time. The EOUSA subsequently suspended the USAO's credit card privileges until the USAO could provide documentation supporting the expenditures. The USAO-DC invested considerable effort in reconstructing EWAP records and reconciling expenditures to witnesses. Approximately $2,900 of the $46,200 could not be reconciled because of missing EWAP forms for witnesses and missing receipts of expenditures. However, the EWAP credit card bills reflected that all the expenditures were for allowable EWAP services, such as transportation, hotels, and subsistence payments; no questionable charges were detected. During FY 2000, the USAO-DC demonstrated its ability to adhere to the EWAP's documentation and financial management requirements and EOUSA reinstated the USAO's credit card.


The Results Act holds federal agencies accountable for achieving and monitoring program results. At the time of our review, the EOUSA had not established program goals, performance measures, and associated data collection requirements for the EWAP nor assessed its effectiveness. The EOUSA collects some information about the EWAP from the FMIS and the USAOs' EWAP forms and quarterly reports. However, this information is sometimes untimely, inconsistent, or redundant and not related to specific performance measures. The EOUSA's procedures for monitoring the USAOs' use of the EWAP do not provide assurance that the EWAP is achieving its purpose and that internal controls are in place for appropriate program and financial management.


  1. The Director, EOUSA, should ensure that performance goals, performance measures, and associated data collection requirements are established and implemented for the EWAP.

  2. The Director, EOUSA, should ensure that EWAP data collected from the USAOs is timely and accurate and analyzed in relation to the program's performance measures.

  3. The Director, EOUSA, should ensure that the USAOs have implemented procedures for managing EWAP funds according to EOUSA guidelines and local EWAP plans.


  1. There are 94 USAOs; however, one of the 93 U.S. Attorneys is responsible for two offices. For purposes of the EWAP, program information for these two offices is consolidated.

  2. Implementing guidelines for the EWAP states that the USAO's use of EWAP funds for a witness may not always be appropriate even when a defendant has been indicted and the trial date set. For example, if physical protection or long-term relocation is needed because of the nature of the threats to the witness, use of funds set aside for the Witness Security Program or investigative agency funds may be more appropriate than EWAP funds. In certain situations, investigative agencies may routinely provide protection and the EWAP is not intended to affect these activities.

  3. One witness cooperated with federal prosecutors but was not required to testify.

  4. According to EOUSA's EWAP Program Manager, the USAO-DC is the only office with this issue.

  5. Appendix V describes the EOUSA's responsibilities for the EWAP.

  6. The Department of Justice Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2000-2005, September 2000, and the FY 2001 Summary Performance Plan, February 2000. The previous Department of Justice Strategic Plan 1997-2002, September 1997, also stressed the participation of victims and witnesses throughout each stage of criminal and juvenile justice proceedings.

  7. The Department has seven core functions as defined in the Department's Fiscal Year 2001 Summary Performance Plan, February 2000.

  8. The EWAP was initially established as a one-year pilot program and was evaluated twice by the EOUSA's Evaluation and Review Staff (EARS) within its first 16 months. The EARS did not evaluate the EWAP against performance goals and measures. However, in both evaluations, the EARS made many recommendations for improving the EWAP and presented the USAOs' mainly positive views of the program.

  9. The USAOs submit these quarterly reports to the EOUSA's Resource Management and Planning Staff, which provides copies to the EWAP Program Manager.

  10. For the reporting period ending December 31, 1999, 39 USAOs had used the EWAP and 38 of these USAOs had submitted their reports by February 15, 2000.

  11. Records for the USAO for the Western District of Kentucky did not reflect discrepancies.

  12. A USAO must complete and send the EWAP Expense Summary form to EOUSA's EWAP Program Manager after services to a witness have concluded. The form should provide a comprehensive list of all EWAP services and expenditures.

  13. The number of USAOs with overdue EWAP accounts and the amounts owed may differ each billing cycle.

  14. At the time of our review, EOUSA was developing better methods to identify procedural and internal control weaknesses in the EWAP.

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