|OJP manages the majority of the Department’s grant programs and is responsible for developing initiatives to address crime at the state and local level. OJP is composed of 5 bureaus – the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), and Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) – as well as the Community Capacity Development Office and the Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking Office.|
The OIG’s Audit Division examined OJP’s Convicted Offender DNA Backlog Reduction Program (Backlog Reduction Program), a grant program that provides funding to help states reduce the backlog of convicted offender DNA samples. Our audit found that the Backlog Reduction Program has contributed to the decrease in the nationwide backlog of DNA samples awaiting analysis, but the Department could increase the effectiveness of the program by improving its method for collecting information from grantees, by ensuring that grants are used in a timely manner, and by not awarding funds to grantees who have not utilized prior awarded program funds.
In 2004, the Department implemented a 5 year, $1 billion DNA grant program initiative to improve the capacity of law enforcement agencies to solve crimes using DNA evidence. As part of this DNA initiative, the Department provided funding to help states reduce the backlog of convicted offender samples awaiting analysis and entry into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
Between FYs 2005 and 2007, 39 states received Backlog Reduction Program grants totaling $41.3 million to analyze 1.46 million DNA samples either through in-house analysis or by sending samples to approved vendor laboratories. We concluded that the national backlog of convicted offender DNA samples has been reduced significantly as a result of efforts by the states to analyze convicted offender DNA samples. However, the backlog may continue to grow because of recent legislation in some states that increased the number of offenses for which DNA samples could be collected.
We found several areas where the Backlog Reduction Program could be improved. Despite the fact that the Department required state laboratories to collect information on performance measures, the Department did not provide adequate guidance to state laboratories on collecting and reporting performance and did not adequately use the information reported by the state laboratories to manage its Backlog Reduction Program. As a result, we identified inconsistencies with the statistical information reported by the laboratories, which prevents the Department from fully and accurately assessing overall Backlog Reduction Program performance.
We also found significant delays to the start of several Backlog Reduction Program awards, which caused more than 180,000 convicted offender DNA samples to not be uploaded to CODIS in a timely manner. These Backlog Reduction Program awards lacked any indication of activity in both financial and programmatic reports submitted to the Department, suggesting that award recipients may have encountered problems fulfilling the award requirements or that the Backlog Reduction Program may not be meeting the specific needs of the award recipient.
In addition, we found that the Department continued to award funding to several state laboratories that had not utilized previous award funding, despite the fact that the Department added requirements to the FY 2008 Backlog Reduction Program solicitation to reject applications from laboratories with prior awards that remain entirely unobligated as of the posting date of the solicitation. Awarding additional funding to state laboratories with inactive awards prevents those funds from being put to better use by another laboratory or federal program.
The OIG made 11 recommendations to help strengthen the Department’s oversight and administration of the Backlog Reduction Program. The Department agreed with our recommendations.
During this reporting period, the OIG continued to conduct audits of grants awarded by OJP. Examples of findings from these audits included the following:
- As of April 2, 2008, OJP awarded more than $1.9 million in Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative (SWBPI) funding to Mendocino County, California. Our audit found that all 710 cases Mendocino County claimed and was reimbursed for were ineligible under the SWBPI guidelines because the cases were not federally initiated. OJP agreed with our findings and will coordinate with Mendocino County on further corrective actions to remedy the $1.9 million in questioned costs.
- As of April 15, 2008, Lake County, California, received SWBPI funding totaling $1.01 million. Our audit found that Lake County claimed and was reimbursed for cases that were ineligible under the SWBPI guidelines. As a result, we identified questioned costs totaling $989,605 for 264 cases that were not federally initiated, of which Lake County has already repaid $700,455. OJP agreed with our findings and will coordinate with Lake County on further corrective actions to remedy the remaining $289,150 in questioned costs.
- As of April 15, 2008, OJP awarded SWBPI funding in the amount of $702,317 to Siskiyou County, California. Our audit found that all 259 of the cases Siskiyou County claimed and was reimbursed for were ineligible under the SWBPI guidelines because they were not federally initiated. OJP agreed with our findings and will coordinate with Siskiyou County to remedy the $702,317 in questioned costs.
- In 2005 and 2006, OJP awarded two Convicted Offender DNA Backlog Reduction Cooperative Agreements totaling $521,469 to the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP). Our audit found that the MSHP did not inform OJP of its intent to use sole source vendors, nor did it tell OJP it was not using competitive bidding for all purchased laboratory supplies. As a result, we questioned $249,617. We also found that the MSHP charged the cooperative agreement $4,543 in unallowable fringe benefits, $7,310 in unreported positions, and $652 in unsupported overtime. In addition, the MSHP did not submit required reports on time, did not prepare reports correctly, and did not provide accurate information in its reports to OJP. OJP agreed with our recommendations and indicated that additional coordination will be required to remedy the $261,620 in unsupported expenditures.
- As of December 31, 2006, OJP awarded a Services for Trafficking Victims Grant totaling $1.3 million to the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST) in Los Angeles, California. We identified several grant-related expenditures for activities that were not authorized in the grant budget, unsupported costs associated with the grantee’s claims of in-kind matching contributions, and semiannual progress reports that lacked the detail and consistency necessary to accurately assess CAST’s ongoing efforts to achieve the goals of the grant. As a result of our audit, we questioned a total of $112,566 in grant expenditures as either unallowable or unsupported. OJP agreed with our findings and will coordinate with CAST to remedy the total questioned costs.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 24 complaints involving OJP and opened 7 new cases. The most common allegations made against OJP employees, contractors, or grantees were grantee fraud.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 27 open criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct related to OJP employees, contractors, or grantees. The criminal investigations included grantee fraud, contract fraud, false statements, and theft. The administrative investigations involved serious allegations of misconduct. The following are examples of cases involving OJP that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- In our March 2006 Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported on an investigation by the OIG’s Fraud Detection Office and the Lansing, Michigan, Police Department that resulted in the sentencing of a Department grantee who stole $60,135 in Department grant funds from her employer, the Neighborhood Youth and Parent Prevention Partnership of Lansing, Michigan. In December 2006, the former grantee pled guilty and was sentenced to 5 months’ in a half-way house, 5 months’ home confinement, and 3 years’ probation pursuant to her guilty plea to making a false statement. She also was ordered to perform 200 hours’ community service and pay $60,135 in restitution. During this reporting period, the Department debarred the former grantee from receiving federal funds for a period of 3 years.
- An investigation by the OIG’s Fraud Detection Office found that the City of Macon, Georgia, misspent approximately $350,000 of a $900,000 Safe Schools Initiative earmark grant from OJJDP intended to provide services for at-risk youth. Approximately $71,000 of the City of Macon’s grant expenditures was unallowable (e.g., travel, food purchases, cosmetic office enhancements, supplies, and equipment) per federal grant rules and regulations, and documentation did not exist to support an estimated $279,000 in expenditures. Additionally, every quarterly financial status report submitted to OJP was false. The USAO for the Middle District of Georgia reached a civil settlement with the City of Macon for $315,002.
- A joint investigation by the OIG’s Fraud Detection Office, Legal Services Corporation OIG, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) OIG led to the arrest of a secretary at Southern Arizona Legal Aid on 73 counts of mail fraud. The indictment returned in the District of Arizona alleged that the secretary embezzled more than $18,000 in funds from clients filing Employment Authorization Documents and more than $19,000 of Department grant matching funds and DHS fee waivers for those same clients.
OJJDP’s Grant and Contract Award Procedures
The OIG is reviewing the policies and procedures used by OJJDP to solicit, assess, and award discretionary grants in FY 2007. This review stems from allegations that the OJJDP Administrator and his executive staff bypassed several highly-rated grant applications in favor of lower-rated proposals.
NIJ’s Grant and Contract Award Practices
We are examining whether competitive NIJ grants and contracts awarded in the last 3 fiscal years were awarded based on fair and open competition. We also are assessing whether non-competitive NIJ grants and contracts awarded in the last 3 fiscal years were properly justified. In addition, we are identifying costs related to competitively awarded NIJ grants and contracts that are administrative in nature and how those costs are determined.
OJP’S Management and Oversight of the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative
The OIG is assessing the adequacy of OJP’s design and management of its Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative grant program. We are examining the extent to which grantees have administered grants in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grant awards. In addition, we are evaluating OJP’s efforts to reduce recidivism among high risk violent offenders who have participated in Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative sponsored programs.