The OJP enhanced grant funding services to Native American tribes through various programs and activities, including the establishment of the American Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs Desk (Indian Desk).

Generally, OJP is responsible for administering DOJ grant funding. The OJP database lists a total of $7,310,091 in DOJ grants awarded to Native American tribal governments from FY 1992 through FY 1994. A total of $6,757,715 was awarded for FY 1995, representing a significant increase over the past three years. [These amounts only include funds awarded directly to tribal governments. In addition to the direct funding listed above, tribal governments also benefit from block and formula grants awarded to the states in which they are located. During FY 1995, OJP awarded a total of $2.4 billion in DOJ grants nationally.] The increase in the amount of grants awarded to tribal governments was due in part to actions taken by OJP, but also included the new Community Oriented Policing Services program.

Tribal representatives stated that historically they have not received an equitable share of federal grant funds because: (1) they were not adequately informed about grant funding available through DOJ, (2) grant funding was not adequately coordinated among the OJP components, and (3) tribes did not have the expertise necessary to prepare competitive grant applications.

We found that OJP has taken actions to address these concerns and that grant funding and services provided by OJP to tribal governments and organizations has improved. Our audit work also revealed general concerns regarding federal grant funding to tribal governments, which fall outside the control of OJP.

Regional Seminars

In 1994, DOJ and BIA co-sponsored a series of eight regional training and technical assistance seminars on DOJ grant funding and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Representatives from OTJ, OJP, and USAOs attended each of the regional seminars. Additionally, OJP brought in representatives from state government agencies to discuss block and formula pass-through funding. All tribal governments were invited to send representatives to the seminars, and over 1,000 tribal members attended.

At the regional seminars, information was provided to participating tribal representatives on:

the federal grant process,

grant funding available directly from DOJ,

how to apply for grant funding, and

block and formula grants funding.

Tribal representatives at the four audit sites said that they had been adequately informed about available DOJ grant funding and OJP assistance available on preparing grant applications.

American Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs Desk

On May 1, 1995, OJP hired one person to staff the Indian Desk in order to improve grant funding services provided to tribal governments. [The individual originally hired to staff the Indian Desk has since left OJP. The position is currently vacant, but OJP plans to fill the position and continue with the program.] The Indian Desk facilitates effective grant funding services to the tribes through coordination of grant programs, training, and technical assistance.

The function of the Indian Desk is to provide tribal governments with better access to information and assistance on grant funding opportunities available within DOJ. The Indian Desk provides assistance in:

coordinating current tribal funding among the various OJP components to enhance technical assistance, monitoring, and program support;

assisting in the planning and development of new program initiatives throughout DOJ bureaus and offices, including OJP, which address the needs of tribal governments; and

working with other federal agencies to improve and increase services to tribes, tribal governments and organizations.

Some OJP components have independently initiated programs to enhance grant funding services provided to tribal governments. For example, beginning in FY 1995, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention established a Native American Working Group. The purpose of the Native American Working Group is to focus on the needs of tribal communities, and coordinate assistance on juvenile justice programs provided to the tribes.

Federal grant funding services provided to tribal governments and organizations has improved. Actions taken by OJP, including the establishment of the Indian Desk, addressed tribal governments' concerns about the equity of federal grant funding. As a result, DOJ grant funding to tribal governments in FY 1995 was approximately three times greater than the amount awarded in the prior three years combined.

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Our audit work revealed several general concerns regarding federal grant funding to tribal governments. Although the concerns fall outside the jurisdiction of OJP, we believe that they should be noted. The American Indian Law Center, Inc., under a cooperative agreement with DOJ, prepared a report on federal grant funding to tribal governments and organizations. This November 1992 report identified general concerns regarding:

equitable pass-through of block and formula grant funding from state agencies;

the effect that grant funding has on tribal sovereignty, especially in the area of pass-through awards from state governments; and

the ability of tribes to meet eligibility requirements of grant programs.

Reinforcing this study, tribal representatives at the four audit sites also raised these concerns regarding federal grant funding.

Block and Formula Grants

The DOJ Block and formula grants are generally lump sum amounts awarded directly to state governments. These awards are to provide assistance to state, as well as, local units of government and organizations within the state. Block and formula grants generally contain pass-through requirements, which obligate state governments to make grant funds available to units of local governments, or other specified groups and organizations. Most of these grants do not contain specific requirements that state governments set-aside a specified amount of the funds for pass-through awards to tribal governments and organizations located within the state. Although all federally recognized tribes are eligible to receive pass-through awards, they usually must compete with units of local government and other groups for the available funding.

Tribal governments and organizations are not eligible to receive block and formula grants directly from DOJ. Instead, they must apply to the state(s), in which the tribe is located for pass-through awards. We found that tribal officials consider block and formula grant funding to negatively affect tribal sovereignty. This belief is based on the fact that, in the pass-through process for block and formula grants, tribal governments are considered units of local government, which are subject to state laws rather than sovereign entities.

The perception among tribal officials at the four audit sites was that they did not receive an equitable share of block and formula grant pass-through awards from the states. Each state establishes its own priorities for program areas that will receive pass-through awards. Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether tribal applications for pass-through awards receive fair consideration, since there is a possibility that a tribal application was denied because the program area was not a priority of the state.

Representatives from state granting authorities had their own concerns about granting pass-through awards to tribal governments. One issue raised was that since tribes are sovereign entities, states have no authority over tribal governments to ensure the proper administration of pass-through awards. Additionally, state governments often have no legal recourse if pass-through funds are used for purposes not related to the requirements of the grant. Since state governments are ultimately responsible for all block and formula grant funding pass-through awards, the lack of authority over tribal governments is a concern.

The OJP addressed these concerns and encouraged states to grant pass-through awards to tribal governments. An Indian Liability Waiver can now be provided to states that do not have the authority to enforce provisions on pass-through awards to tribal governments, or legal recourse to hold tribes liable for any misuse of grant funds. The waiver removes the state's liability for pass-through awards granted to tribal governments.

As stated previously, legislation creating DOJ block and formula grants, normally, does not contain specific requirements that state governments set-aside a specified amount of the funds for pass-through awards to tribal governments and organizations. One exception is the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, which established the Native American Pass-Through requirement as a part of the formula grant program. The Native American Pass-Through requirement specifies a minimum amount of each state's general formula grant funds that must be made available for funding tribal programs within the state.

A General Accounting Office Fact Sheet, dated March 1994, entitled JUVENILE JUSTICE - Native American Pass-Through Grant Program, found that "the amount of required pass-through awards to tribal governments was insufficient to address the tribes' juvenile justice problems." According to the Fact Sheet, each year an average of $48.2 million was awarded to states for FYs 1991, 1992, and 1993. Of that amount states were only required to set-aside an estimated average of $167,868, each year, for pass-through awards to tribal governments.


1991 1992 1993 TOTAL
$149,293 $110,563 $114,057 $373,913
347,276 309,378 256,821 913,475
$197,983 $198,815 $142,764 $539,562
Source: OIG analysis of data contained in the General Accounting Office Fact Sheet for the Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, and the Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. Senate, March 1994, JUVENILE JUSTICE -Native American Pass-Through Grant Program

Table 1

However, the Fact Sheet also concluded that, on average, pass-through awards to tribal governments were actually more than double the required amount, as shown in Table 1.

Eligibility of Tribal Governments

In addition to concerns raised about block and formula grant funding, the American Indian Law Center's November 1992 report concluded that legislation creating federal grant programs was often ambiguous concerning the sovereign status of tribal governments. Legislation for federal assistance programs frequently did not specify if tribal governments are eligible for grant funding on the same basis as state and local governments.

The November 1992 report also concluded that the design of some federal grant programs presented a problem for tribal governments who wished to participate. Grant programs were often designed with the assumption that the federal funds will supplement or enhance an existing program supported by state and local tax revenues. Tribal governments often do not have existing programs because of limited resources. Therefore, the tribes are either not eligible for these grant programs, or they must attempt to create new programs with only grant funds. If the grant program is discontinued, the tribal program often must also be discontinued, because the tribes do not have the funds to support the program.

A final concern of tribal governments is that tribes may not qualify for certain grants because the grantor agency mistakenly concludes that significant problems, relating to the purposes of the grant, do not exist. Approximately 60 percent of the tribes have populations of 1,000 members or less, which can lead to mistaken conclusions about their need for assistance. For example, a tribe of 200 individuals reporting 3 murders in one year, when compared to the number of murders reported in major cities, may not appear to have a violent crime problem. However, based on population, the tribe has a substantial murder rate.

Although the issues related to block and formula grants and to tribal eligibility for federal grants are outside the jurisdiction of OJP, its Indian Desk is making an effort, working with other federal agencies and tribal officials, to determine possible solutions.


Grant funding and services provided by OJP to tribal governments has improved. OJP has conducted seminars, established the Indian Desk, and developed programs within the various OJP components. As a result, tribal governments are better informed about available grants and the grant application process. In addition, the various components within OJP now coordinate activities, and new programs have been created which meet the grant funding needs of tribal governments. Nonetheless, several general concerns regarding federal grant funding to tribal governments, which fall outside the control of OJP, still exist. These concerns relate to the effect of federal grant funding on tribal sovereignty and tribal eligibility for grant funding. While we understand that these are legitimate concerns, these conditions are outside the purview of OJP, and we offer no recommendations in this area.