The No Suspect Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program

Audit Report No. 05-02
November 2004
Office of the Inspector General

Appendix 3

Audit Criteria

Federal Legislation

CODIS was first described and authorized in the DNA Identification Act of 1994 (Act). The Act, part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, authorized the FBI to establish and maintain CODIS. That authorization limited records in CODIS to those that are: based upon analyses meeting the FBI’s QAS, prepared by labs undergoing external proficiency testing every 180 days, and maintained by criminal justice agencies that limit the disclosure of the information to approved groups. Access to the national CODIS database is subject to cancellation if these requirements are not met and penalties of up to $100,000 can be assessed for unauthorized disclosure or receipt of DNA samples/information. Each Program grantee signs a Statutory Assurance Certification, stating that they will comply with the provisions of the Act, which in turn means that they must require their contractors to comply with the Act, since the contractors are doing the actual DNA analysis work.

The Act also established the DNA Advisory Board (DAB), an entity that was to compose standards for quality assurance with which CODIS-participating laboratories would have to comply and which the Director of the FBI could then formally institute. The DAB produced one of the key sources of our audit criteria, as described below.

Quality Assurance Standards

The QAS, recommended by the DNA Advisory Board and formally instituted by the Director of the FBI, are one of the key sources of criteria for an audit of a CODIS-participating laboratory. Two sets of standards have been instituted: the Quality Assurance Standards for Forensic DNA Testing Laboratories effective October 1, 1998; and the Quality Assurance Standards for Convicted Offender DNA Databasing Laboratories effective April 1, 1999.

Our audits of grantee and contractor laboratories included a review of compliance with various sections of the Forensic QAS, since it is that set of QAS that addresses casework analysis, applicable to the processing of no-suspect cases. Further, while the Forensic QAS contain 155 elements organized under 15 headings, our audits focused primarily on 3 of those headings, as follows:

  • Facilities: the physical design of the laboratory and additional controls should ensure the integrity of laboratory security and minimize contamination. This section contains five elements.
  • Evidence Control: the laboratory should have a documented control system, and the necessary internal controls to implement it, to ensure the integrity of the evidence and to govern the final disposition of the evidence. This section contains seven elements.
  • Subcontractor of Analytical Testing for Which Validated Procedures Exist: a laboratory making use of a subcontractor for any part of the DNA analysis process should establish certain specified controls to ensure the integrity of the subcontractor's work and results. This section contains two elements.

In addition, the FBI has developed an audit document to assist DNA community auditors in assessing a laboratory's compliance with the QAS. This audit document provided comment and discussion on various QAS and served as a source of additional guidance.

Solicitation Requirements

The Program Solicitation issued by OJP serves as another source of audit criteria for our audits of the four state grantees and their co-grantees. Per the Program Solicitation, grantees were required to ensure that all analysis of no-suspect cases under the Program complied with the QAS, and that any profiles resulting from that analysis be expeditiously uploaded to CODIS. Further, the grantees were to ensure that their contracting Laboratories:

  • are accredited by the ASCLD/LAB, or certified by the NFSTC;
  • adhere to the most current QAS issued by the FBI Director, including the use of proper quality assurance standards (controls);
  • have a Technical Leader located onsite at the laboratory;
  • provide quality data able to be easily reviewed and uploaded to CODIS;
  • have the appropriate resources to screen evidence to maximize analytical results (if applicable to the work contracted); and
  • are paid only for work that is actually performed. The Solicitation further explains that the compensation given to the outsourcing laboratory should be fair, and directly reflect the effort and cost put forth by the laboratory in processing the case/sample.

In addition, the Program Solicitation stipulated allowable and unallowable uses of grant funds:

  • Funds may be used for overtime and/or other compensation for existing staff and for laboratory equipment and supplies needed for processing no-suspect cases, for contractor-provided services to perform various steps in the processing and/or analysis of cases/samples, and for travel to outsourcing laboratory for review of laboratory procedures and practices.
  • Funds may not be used for the replacement of funds already available to the states for processing no-suspect cases (supplanting), for hiring new staff or salaries for existing staff beyond the overtime or other compensation outlined above, and for overhead or administrative costs. The state must demonstrate that funds were spent on expenses directly associated with processing no-suspect casework. Indirect and administrative costs were unallowable under this Program.

OJP Financial Guide

The OJP Financial Guide (Guide) serves as an additional source of audit criteria for our audits of the four state grantees. The Guide places various requirements on every grant issued by OJP. The following are some of the significant requirements:

  • Accurate and timely Financial Status Reports and Progress Reports must be submitted quarterly and semi-annually, respectively, to OJP.
  • Changes to the grantee's budget in excess of 10 percent of the total award, or changes to the scope of the project must be submitted to OJP for approval.
  • Grantees should time their drawdown requests to ensure that federal cash on hand is the minimum needed for disbursements to be made immediately or within a few days.