Administration of Department of Justice Grants Awarded to
Native American and Alaska Native Tribal Governments
Audit Report 05-18
Office of the Inspector General
The Department of Justice (DOJ) provides leadership and support to tribal governments to develop their capacity to prevent and control crime and administer justice fairly and effectively through various grant, training, technical assistance, and research programs. Within the DOJ, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), Office of Justice Programs (OJP), and Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) are the primary agencies responsible for providing criminal justice grant funding to tribal governments. These components provide funding through the following programs intended specifically for tribal governments.
In an effort to enhance the DOJís communication and coordination with tribal governments, in 1995 the Attorney General established the Office of Tribal Justice (OTJ). The OTJ coordinates DOJ policies and positions on Native American issues; maintains a liaison with the federally recognized tribes; and works on Native American issues with appropriate federal, state, and local officials, professional associations and public interest groups.
According to the 2000 Census, 4.1 million people,1 or 1.5 percent of the total population, identified themselves as American Indians or Alaska Natives (Native Americans).2 Despite the relatively small Native American population, a 2001 study conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) indicated that Native Americans are more likely to experience rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault than people of any other race.3 Therefore, the enhancement of tribal criminal justice systems is essential.
This audit by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) primarily reviewed grants awarded to tribal governments by the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW during FYs 2000 through 2003. During this 4-year period, the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW budgets for grant programs to improve criminal justice systems totaled $18.8 billion, of which $424.2 million (2.3 percent) was awarded to tribal governments. The grant programs addressed issues of law enforcement, domestic violence, child abuse, juvenile justice, and victimsí services.
The COPS Office, OJP, and OVW provided $77.4 million in funding to tribal governments through competitive programs and mandatory set asides, and an additional $346.8 million through programs intended specifically for tribal governments.4
TABLE 1: TRIBAL FUNDING AWARDED (Dollars in Millions)
Source: COPS Office, OJP, and OVW
For the last 5 years, grant management has been identified by the OIG as one of the DOJís top 10 management challenges.5 Specifically, the OIG has reported that grant management continues to be a challenge for the following reasons:
The OIG conducted this audit at the request of OJP to review the administration of DOJ grants awarded to tribal governments. Our audit included grants awarded by the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW. In developing the objectives of the audit, we also considered the concerns identified in the OIGís report on the DOJís top 10 management challenges. As a result, the objectives of this audit were to evaluate:
Summary of Findings and Recommendations
Adequacy of Grant Monitoring
Grant monitoring is an essential management tool to ensure that grant programs are implemented, objectives are achieved, and tribal grantees are properly expending funds. To this end, federal regulations require that grantees be monitored throughout the life of the grant to ensure that: 1) the grantee complies with the programmatic, administrative, and fiscal requirements of the relevant statutes, regulations, policies, and guidelines; 2) programs initiated by the grantee are carried out in a manner consistent with the relevant statutes, regulations, policies, and guidelines of the program; 3) the grantee is provided guidance on policies and procedures, grant program requirements, general federal regulations, and basic programmatic, administrative, and financial reporting requirements; and 4) any problems that may impede the effective implementation of grant programs are identified and resolved.
Formal grant monitoring techniques include on-site monitoring and office-based desk reviews. On site monitoring provides grant managers with the opportunity to observe and discuss with the grantee specific issues related to implementation plan progress, observe grant activities, and provide on-site technical assistance. Office based desk reviews involve a review of the grant file in order to: 1) ensure that files are complete, 2) determine if the grantee is in compliance with the program guidelines, 3) determine if grant special conditions are being implemented and properly cleared, and 4) assess the progress of the program and identify any administrative or budgetary problems. In addition, grant managers make periodic telephone contacts with grantees to monitor grant activities and project status.
The COPS Office, OJP, and OVW officials stated that in monitoring tribal grantees they rely on required periodic financial and progress reports. Financial reports contain information on the actual grant expenditures and unliquidated obligations, while progress reports provide information on grant activities and accomplishments during the reporting period. The accuracy of financial and progress reports can only be assessed through on-site monitoring since grantees are not required to provide accounting records and other documentation supporting the information included in their reports.
To assess the adequacy of tribal-specific grant program monitoring, we judgmentally selected a sample of 102 grants awarded by the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW. For each grant selected, we examined the grant file(s) for compliance with reporting requirements and monitoring activities. Based on the results of our review, we found that:
Based on the significance of the findings detailed above, in our judgment the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW are not effectively monitoring grants awarded to tribal governments. Consequently, the DOJ has no assurances that the objectives of its tribal-specific grant programs are being met or that expenditures of grant funds are in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grants.
Utilization of Grant Funds
To ensure the effectiveness of the DOJ grant programs in meeting the criminal justice needs of tribal governments, it is essential that grant funding be made available and utilized in a timely manner. To determine the effectiveness of the COPS Office, OJP, and OVWís administration of tribal specific grant programs, we reviewed grant obligations and drawdowns for all tribal-specific grants. We realize that while the rate of drawdowns is not the only definitive indicator of grant activity, drawdowns can be an important indicator of overall grantee progress toward achieving the grant objectives. Our review included 900 COPS Office grants totaling $165.47 million, 495 OJP grants totaling $204.09 million, and 140 OVW grants totaling $41.78 million. Based on the results of our review, we found that:
Based on the findings detailed above, we found that OJP and OVW are not ensuring that funds for tribal-specific grant programs are made available to tribal grantees in a timely manner. Additionally, the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW are not monitoring the utilization of grant funds. If grant funds are not obligated timely, tribal governments may encounter delays in providing essential criminal justice services. Further, failure to utilize grant funds may be an indication that the grantee encountered problems implementing the grant program or that the programs are not meeting the criminal justice needs of tribal governments.
Administration of Expired Grants
An important aspect of grant monitoring and administration is timely and proper grant closeout. As a part of the closeout process, grant managers are required to ensure that grant objectives have been achieved. Therefore, timely grant closeout is essential to determine whether grant programs are effectively meeting the criminal justice needs of tribal governments. Pursuant to policy, OJP and OVW are required to close out grants within 180 days after the award end date. Although the COPS Office does not have a specific timeframe in which expired grants should be closed, in our judgment 180 days after the award end date is a reasonable timeframe.
To determine whether the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW were closing out grants timely and properly, we reviewed all expired tribal-specific grants included in our audit. Our review included 507 COPS Office grants totaling $62.08 million, 177 OJP grants totaling $51.11 million, and 74 OVW grants totaling $19.58 million. Based on the results of our review, we found that the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW are not closing out grants or are not closing out grants in a timely manner, resulting in questioned costs totaling $6.06 million and funds put to better use of $10.95 million.7 Specifically,
Allowability of Costs Charged to Grants
After the grant award has been accepted, the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW are responsible for managing and administering the programmatic and financial aspects of the award. As stated in the Background section of this report, from FYs 1998 through 2003 the OIG performed 27 individual audits of grants awarded to tribal governments by the COPS Office and OJP.8 For the 27 prior grant audits, the OIG identified $4.19 million in questioned costs and $3.04 million in funds put to better use.9
The results of these prior audits indicate that the COPS Office and OJP are not effectively managing the DOJís grant programs for tribal governments.10 Therefore, as a part of our audit, we conducted audits of selected COPS Office, OJP, and OVW grantees to determine whether costs charged to the grant programs are allowable and in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grants. We selected a total of 41 COPS Office grants totaling $16.80 million, 21 OJP grants totaling $36.64 million, and 6 OVW grants totaling $3.69 million. Eighteen separate audit reports were issued for the grantees and grants selected.
Based on the results of the individual grant audits, we found that unallowable and unsupported costs totaling $4.57 million were charged to the grants. Further, we identified funds put to better use totaling $0.97 million related to grant funds that will not or should not be used. As a result, these costs were not used to meet the criminal justice needs funded under the grant program. We also found that essential grant requirements were not met. Specifically,
Based on the individual grant audits, we found that costs charged to the grant programs were not always allowable and in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grants. Further, the frequency and magnitude of issues identified in our individual grant audits indicate that critical grant requirements are not being met. In our judgment, these findings support our conclusion that the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW are not adequately monitoring the tribal-specific grant programs, resulting in significant numbers of tribal grantees who are not administering their grant(s) in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grant(s).
DOJ Strategy for Awarding Grants to Tribal Governments
Our audit was initiated at the request of OJP who asked that the OIG conduct a review of the DOJ criminal justice funding awarded to tribal governments. Among the issues that OJP suggested we address were the effectiveness of various funding mechanisms in meeting short term and long-term objectives and in having a long-term impact in the way criminal justice issues are addressed by tribal governments. During our audit, we determined that the audit request was initiated by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) in part because of a proposal to restructure its tribal specific grant programs into a combined criminal justice program. However, because of the ineffective monitoring and administration of the current tribal specific grant programs noted previously in our report, we were unable to fully evaluate the effectiveness of the current DOJ strategy. Therefore, in our judgment, changes to the current funding strategy are premature because there is no indication at this time that such changes in the funding strategy will enhance tribal-specific grant programs.
The BJA has proposed consolidating the Tribal Courts, Indian Alcohol and Substance Abuse, Tribal Drug Courts, and Tribal Youth programs "in an effort to streamline funding" that would allow tribal governments increased flexibility in prioritizing criminal justice needs and determining how the grant funds will be utilized. According to the BJA, the proposed Tribal Justice Assistance Grant (TJAG) Program would also streamline the application process and grant requirements, and attempt to eliminate duplication of monitoring efforts.
The proposed TJAG Program is in line with the DOJ policy on tribal sovereignty, in that it would allow tribal governments to assess their criminal justice priorities and determine how the grant funds will be utilized. However, any proposed strategy must balance accountability with flexibility. In Findings I through IV of this audit, we found that current grant programs have not been adequately monitored or effectively administered by the granting agencies. Further, we found that tribal grantees were not always in compliance with grant requirements and did not always expend grant funds in accordance with laws, regulations, and the terms and conditions of the grant. In light of the many issues identified in Findings I through IV, the proposed TJAG Program may not best strike the balance between ensuring that criminal justice needs of tribal governments are met, while balancing the need for accountability.
Our audit also disclosed that the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW did not ensure that the grantees are providing basic information necessary to determine whether grant programs have been implemented and grant objectives have been achieved. Specifically, for the majority of the grants reviewed one or more required financial and progress reports, which contain the minimum information necessary to determine whether grant programs have been implemented and grant objectives are being achieved (especially final reports), were not submitted or were not submitted in a timely manner. Further, grant closeout should include a review to determine whether grant objectives were achieved. However, we found that grants were not closed out in a timely manner, which limited our ability to determine the effectiveness of grant programs.
As a result, our audit focused on the utilization of grant funding as an indicator of whether the grants have been fully implemented and program objectives have been achieved. Our review of the obligation and utilization of grant funds found that the tribal specific grant programs were not always fully implemented in a timely manner, an indication that grant objectives have not been achieved and that the current programs are not fully effective in meeting the criminal justice needs of tribal governments. To more fully evaluate tribal grant effectiveness, the OIG is also planning to initiate a separate follow-on audit of a tribal-specific grant program that will examine grantee performance information to determine whether grant objectives are being achieved.
Historically, the DOJ implemented a series of initiatives designed to improve law enforcement and the administration of criminal and juvenile justice in Indian Country. These initiatives also attempted to address some of the problems that significantly impact the federal governmentís ability to effectively implement grant programs that provide funding to tribal governments, discussed in the Background section of this report.
Currently, the DOJ funds criminal justice needs in Indian Country through mandatory set-asides or programs intended specifically for tribal governments. Tribal governments benefit from the DOJís current practice because they are not required to compete with state and local governments for limited criminal justice funding.
Based on the successful practices identified by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) from research conducted on past initiatives, coordination and information sharing are an essential part of any strategy for effectively providing assistance to tribal governments and addressing the wide range of unique issues specific to Indian Country. The DOJ grants to tribal governments are administered by various DOJ components, bureaus, and offices, including the COPS Office, BJA, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Office of Victims of Crime (OVC), and OVW. The OJP is responsible for policy coordination and general management of the BJA, OJJDP, OVC, and the American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs Desk (AI/AN Affairs Desk).11 Additionally, the OTJ coordinates DOJ policies and positions on Indian Country issues. As a result, any comprehensive strategy to improve the responsiveness of the DOJ to criminal justice needs in Indian Country must start with the development of a formal process for coordination and training.
We found that there is no formal mechanism in place for coordination and information sharing within OJP and among the DOJ components. Generally, each component had an informal mechanism in place for coordination and information sharing. However, these coordination efforts appear to be ad hoc, occurring only when one of the participants initiates efforts for specific activities. A formal mechanism for coordination and information sharing could require grant mangers to provide copies of monitoring reports to the other components, bureaus, and offices.
We also found the DOJ has not effectively implemented a training program to deal with the unique issues related to tribal governments. In our judgment, the DOJ should establish a formal process to train staff responsible for administering and monitoring tribal-specific grant programs. Training should focus on: 1) the wide range of unique issues specific to tribal governments; 2) cultural awareness, including the history of the relationship between the federal and tribal governments; 3) the sovereign status of tribal governments; and 4) the jurisdictional complexities and limitations in Indian Country.
Our report contains 53 recommendations that focus on specific steps that the COPS Office, OJP, and OVW should take to improve the monitoring and administration of tribal-specific grant programs and enhance the DOJ strategy for grants awarded to tribal governments. Specifically, our recommendations seek to ensure that: