Effectiveness of the Office for Victims of Crime Tribal Victim Assistance Program

Audit Report 06-08
February 2006
Office of the Inspector General


According to the 2000 Census, 4.1 million people,9 or 1.5 percent of the total population, identified themselves as American Indians or Alaska Natives (Native Americans).10 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 be victims of rape or sexual assault, aggravated assault, and simple assault than people of any other race in the United States.11 Another study conducted by the BJS indicated that:12

  • Native Americans experienced per capita rates of violence that are more than twice those of the United States’ resident population.

  • On average, Native Americans experienced an estimated 1 violent crime for every 10 residents age 12 or older.

  • The violent crime rate in every age group below 35 was significantly higher for Native Americans than for all persons.

  • Among Native Americans age 25 to 34, the rates of violent crime victimization were more than 2.5 times the rates for all persons the same age.

  • Rates of violent victimization for both males and females were higher for Native Americans than for all other races included in the study.

  • The rate of violent victimization among Native American women was more than double that among all women.

Additionally, a study funded by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) found that in order to effectively address criminal justice issues and services for victims of crime in Indian Country, it is vital that productive efforts are made to improve the relationship between Indian Nations, and the federal and state governments.

The study found that there are a wide range of concerns that significantly impact the federal government’s ability to effectively address the needs of victims of crime in Indian Country.13 Specifically, the study found that:

  • The crime rates, especially the violent and juvenile crime rates, have increased in Indian Country while crime rates have declined nationwide.

  • There are numerous jurisdictional complexities and limitations in Indian Country that present overwhelming difficulties in any effort to improve the relationship between tribal governments and the federal government. As a result, the confusing jurisdiction among tribal, federal, and state governments has resulted in jurisdictional gaps and disputes.14 The difficulty of determining jurisdiction and provisions for concurrent jurisdiction of certain cases, can cause conflict and confusion for law enforcement, prosecution, courts, service providers, and crime victims in Indian Country.

  • There is a lack of understanding and contact by the federal government with tribal criminal justice systems, including tribal court systems.

  • Tribal justice systems are inadequately funded and the lack of adequate funding impairs their operation.

  • The lack of facilities and resources available to most criminal justice systems is complicated by the isolated, rural location of most Indian reservations.

Office for Victims of Crime

In an effort to address the needs of crime victims, including those in Native American communities, Congress established the OVC in 1988 through an amendment to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) of 1984. Upon its creation, the OVC became the primary agency within the Department of Justice (DOJ) responsible for enhancing the nation’s capacity to assist crime victims and provide leadership in changing attitudes, policies, and practices to promote justice, and healing for all crime victims. To accomplish its mission, the OVC:

  •  provides funding for direct services to crime victims;
  •  provides training programs that reach diverse professionals nationally and internationally;
  •  sponsors demonstration projects and programs that have national impact;
  •  publishes and disseminates materials that highlight promising practices that can be
     replicated for the effective treatment of crime victims;
  •  offers technical assistance to governments, private sector programs, and others; and
  •  develops policy and establishes public awareness initiatives.

Funding for the OVC’s programs is provided from the Crime Victims Fund, which was established by VOCA to support victim services and training for advocates and professionals. Fund dollars are derived from criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties, and special assessments from offenders convicted of federal crimes, and are collected by the federal courts, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. During Fiscal Years (FYs) 2000 through 2004, funding provided by the Crime Victims Fund totaled $2.91 billion.

Tribal Victim Assistance Programs

In 1988, the OVC created the Victim Assistance in Indian County (VAIC) Discretionary Grant Program to establish, expand, and improve victim assistance services in Native American communities governed by federal criminal jurisdiction. The VAIC program was designed to address the lack of victim assistance programs and bridge the gap between criminal justice agencies and service providers. Under the VAIC program, during FYs 1999 through 2002, the OVC provided funding totaling $ 5,466,995 directly to 40 Native American communities to help them establish reservation-based victim assistance programs. In FY 2003, the OVC expanded the VAIC program to all federally recognized tribes, regardless of criminal jurisdiction, and renamed it the Tribal Victim Assistance (TVA) program. During FYs 2003 and 2004, the OVC has awarded $4,976,524 under the TVA program to 24 Native American communities throughout the United States.

Allowable Uses of Victim Assistance Funding

Under the OVC tribal victim assistance program, applicants are required to plan and implement a 3-year program to improve the ability of Native American communities to provide direct services to crime victims.15 Generally, services provided under the OVC tribal victim assistance program include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Services that immediately respond to the emotional and physical needs (excluding medical care) of crime victims, such as intervention; accompaniment to hospitals for medical examinations; hotline counseling; emergency food, clothing, transportation, and shelter; emergency legal assistance; and other emergency services that are intended to restore victims’ sense of dignity and self-esteem.

  • Mental health assistance, such as counseling, group treatment, support groups, and therapy.

  • Advocacy on behalf of crime victims, including accompaniment to criminal justice offices and court, transportation to court, child care to enable a victim to attend court, restitution advocacy, and assistance with victim impact statements.

  • Services that offer an immediate measure of safety to crime victims, such as boarding up broken windows and replacing or repairing locks.

  • Forensic medical examinations for sexual assault victims to the extent that other funding sources are not available.

  • Costs necessary and essential for providing direct services to victims, such as pro-rated costs for rent, telephone service, transportation costs, and local travel expenses for direct service providers.

  • Costs directly related to providing direct services through staff, including salaries and fringe benefits.

  • Training for law enforcement personnel in the delivery of services to crime victims.

  • Promoting coordinated efforts within the community to aid crime victims.

  • Assistance for those seeking crime victim compensation benefits.

  • Preparation, publication, and distribution of material that explains services offered to crime victims.

The following services, activities, and costs are not generally considered direct crime-victim services, but are often considered a necessary and essential activity to ensure that quality direct services are provided. These costs may be considered for coverage under the OVC tribal victim assistance program, provided that direct services to crime victims cannot be offered without support for these expenses; the tribal grantee has no other source of support for them; and only limited amounts of program funds will be used for these purposes, including the following:

  • skills training for staff;

  • equipment and furniture;

  • contracts for professional services;

  • operating costs, such as supplies, printing, postage, and brochures that describe available services, books, and other victim-related materials;

  • supervision of direct service providers, such as volunteer coordinators;

  • repair and replacement of essential items;

  • presentations made in schools, community centers, or other public forums designed to identify crime victims and to provide or refer them to needed services; and

  • vehicle leasing.


Tribal grantees are encouraged to demonstrate strategies that include collaboration with appropriate local and federal agencies involved in assisting victims. Specifically, collaboration with the following agencies is deemed essential under the OVC tribal victim assistance program: (1) the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices (USAO); (2) the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); (3) state, local, and tribal criminal justice agencies; (4) Indian Health Services; (5) child protective services; and (6) other appropriate tribal and non-tribal agencies.

Performance Measures Under the Victim Assistance Programs

To ensure compliance with the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA), Public Law 103-62, grantees are required to collect and report data that measures the results of the programs implemented under the OVC tribal victim assistance program. To ensure accountability under GPRA, the OVC requires the following performance measures to be reported in the semi‑annual Categorical Assistance Progress Reports (progress reports) for its tribal victim assistance program:

  • number of victims served and type of victimization,

  • number of staff supported by grant funds,

  • number of volunteer hours,

  • number of publications produced,

  • number of training workshops for law enforcement,

  • type of services provided, and

  • progress on goals and objectives identified by the program,

In the 2005 TVA solicitation, the performance measures were changed to:

  • percent of increase in the number of victim services provided,

  • percent of increase in the number of victim services training workshops provided, and

  • percent of increase in the number of victim compensation claims submitted.

Prior Reviews

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) previously conducted an audit on the Administration of Department of Justice Grants Awarded to Native American and Alaska Native Tribal Governments, Report No. 05-18, March 2005. The prior audit found significant issues with the adequacy of grant monitoring, which is an essential management tool that ensures grant programs are implemented, objectives are achieved, and tribal grantees have expended funds properly. Additionally, the report noted that the granting agencies did not ensure that tribal grantees submitted the necessary information to assess grant implementation or to achieve the grant program objectives. Further, there was no consistency in the information provided in the required progress reports that were submitted. 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 were implemented and grant objectives were achieved (especially final reports), were not submitted or were not submitted in a timely manner.

  • A 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 were not achieved, and that the current programs were not fully effective in meeting the criminal justice needs of tribal governments.

These findings are consistent indications that the OVC and other granting agencies were not effectively monitoring and administering the DOJ grants awarded to tribal governments. Additionally, the DOJ had no assurances that the objectives of its tribal-specific grant programs were being met or that expenditures of grant funds were in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grants.

Audit Objective

The DOJ OIG conducted the current audit to evaluate the effectiveness of the OVC tribal victim assistance grant program. The objective of our audit was to obtain grant performance information directly from tribal grantees and to evaluate whether grant programs were fully implemented and program objectives were achieved.

According to the DOJ Strategic Plan, implementing an effective program planning and implementation cycle is essential to performance‑based management. An effective cycle involves: (1) setting long-term performance goals and objectives; (2) translating long‑term performance goals into budgets and program plans; and (3) implementing programs, monitoring program performance, and evaluating program results, as shown in Figure 1.


[Not Available Electronically]

 Source: DOJ Strategic Plan, Fiscal Years 2003-2008

Grant program effectiveness starts with overall program structure and design, incorporating adequate oversight and evaluation. We reviewed OVC documents and interviewed program officials to determine whether the OVC tribal victim assistance program had a well‑defined purpose intended to support a specific problem; and was designed to fill a unique role or unnecessarily duplicated, overlapped, or competed with other federal or non-federal programs.

For grant programs to encompass effective strategic planning, they must have:

  • long-term performance measures that guide program management and budgeting, and promote results and accountability;

  • a limited number of annual performance measures that directly support desired long‑term goals;

  • challenging but realistic quantified targets that are established to evaluate annual performance measures;

  • performance data and program evaluations that are used to evaluate program effectiveness;

  • integrated performance-planning and budget-planning processes, so that resource-allocation decisions reflect the desired performance; and

  • clear results, despite the effects of funding and other policy changes.

Finally, to determine if performance information was used to manage the OVC tribal victim assistance program and improve performance, we determined whether the OVC: (1) used the reported data to inform program management, make resource decisions, and evaluate program performance; (2) held its program managers and tribal grantees accountable; (3) administered funds efficiently and obligated them in accordance with planned schedules; (4) implemented adequate oversight practices that provided sufficient knowledge of tribal grantee activities; and (5) collected tribal grantee performance data on an annual basis.

The details of the results of our audit are contained in the Findings and Recommendations section of this report. Additional information related to our audit objectives, scope, and methodology appears in Appendix II.


  1. This statistic includes 2.5 million individuals in the United States who identify themselves as Native American, and another 1.6 million who identify themselves as part Native American.
  2. Throughout this report, the term “Native Americans” is used to indicate American Indians and Alaska Natives.
  3. BJS Special Report, Violent Victimization and Race, 1993‑98, March 2001.
  4. BJS, American Indians and Crime: A BJS Statistical Profile, 1992-2002, December 2004.
  5. The Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Improving the Relationship between Indian Nations, the Federal Government, and State Governments: Developing and Implementing Cooperative Agreements or Memorandums of Understanding, March 2000.
  6. See Appendix I of this report for an analysis of criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country.
  7. Throughout this report, the phrase “OVC tribal victim assistance program” is used to refer to both the former VAIC and current TVA programs.

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