The No Suspect Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program
Audit Report No. 05-02
Office of the Inspector General
The OJP response to the draft audit report appears in Appendix IV. In its response, OJP generally agreed with all 19 of our recommendations and described the corrective actions it has taken or intends to take with regard to the recommendations. Prior to presenting the status of each recommendation and the actions necessary for closure, however, we address several statements that OJP made in its response.
First, the OJP response referenced the “President’s DNA Initiative” (DNA Initiative), announced in March 2003, and asserted that the grant program that we audited was discontinued in favor of the DNA Initiative. This statement is incorrect. The 2004 grant program closely follows the requirements of prior year Forensic Casework Backlog Reduction Programs and our findings and recommendations are relevant for the 2004 program as well. In addition, we believe it is misleading for OJP to state that the current Administration and Congress discontinued the Forensic Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program in favor of the DNA Initiative. Under the DNA Initiative, the funding source for the Backlog Reduction Program has changed, but the program has not been discontinued. In fact, DNA backlog elimination is the most strongly funded purpose area contained in the DNA Initiative. In our judgment, the priority given to reducing and eliminating backlogs further emphasizes the significance of the OIG recommendations contained in this report. Overall, the only apparent change to the grant program resulting from the DNA initiative is the source of funding. Under the DNA Initiative, administrative and program requirements are substantially unchanged from prior years.
Second, OJP's response indicated that many of our audit recommendations were already addressed in the DNA Initiative. While the DNA Initiative contains broad provisions related to a variety of DNA-related programs, including eliminating backlogs, strengthening crime laboratory capacity, stimulating research and development, and providing training, the DNA Initiative does not stipulate how those programs are to be managed, which is the key to successful administration of any grant program. For this reason, the DNA Initiative itself does not resolve or close any of our audit findings or recommendations. For example, the DNA Initiative does not address our recommendations relating to the development and implementation of better performance measurements or increased monitoring and oversight of grant drawdowns. In addition, many of our recommendations pertain to the oversight of local grantee activities by the state grantees. The DNA Initiative does not provide any guidance in this area.
The OJP's response provided examples of changes made to the May 2004 solicitation that added special conditions to DNA grants awarded in September 2004, which addressed some of our audit findings. We agree that these changes, many of which were implemented in response to our audit work, are positive steps taken by OJP. For example, the solicitation allows for grants to be awarded directly to local laboratories, which should shorten the time that it takes to utilize this funding. This change directly addressed one of our audit recommendations.
In its response, OJP also stated that the provisions in the "Justice for All Act of 2004" should improve grantee performance. While this Act provides funding authorization for many DNA-related programs, we still believe that OJP's administration of any funds awarded under this Act are the most significant measure of whether grantee performance will improve. The Act itself does not direct monitoring of grantee activities.
In sum, while the new DNA Initiative and the Justice for All Act contain many provisions related to DNA grant programs, the overall monitoring, administration, and success of these and other DNA-related grant programs are dependent upon the quality of activities conducted by OJP. Our recommendations focus on OJP activities, and the passage of the DNA Initiative and the Justice for All Act emphasize the importance of implementing the changes we recommend in the way the DNA grants are administered.
The status of the individual recommendations is as follows: