The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), which was signed into law on February 17, 2009, provides $787 billion in funding as a stimulus to the economy. Of that funding, the Department received $4 billion for grant funding to enhance state, local, and tribal law enforcement; to combat violence against women; and to fight Internet crimes against children.
The OIG is providing guidance and oversight related to the Department’s Recovery Act efforts. For example, OIG staff has met with Department managers involved in distributing and overseeing Recovery Act funds to discuss best practices and explain the OIG’s oversight efforts. The OIG identified specific fraud, waste, and abuse risks for Recovery Act funding and made specific suggestions to help mitigate these risks. In addition, the OIG offered a grant fraud awareness training curriculum to Department grant managers and program, budget, and finance staffs. In April and May 2009 alone, the OIG provided training to 868 employees from the Department’s three grant making agencies. In total, the OIG has presented 30 training sessions reaching more than 2,400 grant administrators, sub-grantees, and staff from state administering agencies.
OIG auditors and investigators also informally reviewed and provided comments on a wide range of Recovery Act material developed by Department grant administrators relating to Recovery Act grant funds, including the Department’s internal controls over the grant funds and certifications that grant administrators are using their Recovery Act funds. The OIG also participated in a Grants.gov webcast in April 2009, which had more than 1,000 live Internet connections. In this webcast, an OIG investigator discussed the role of federal OIGs in grant fraud matters; the most common grant fraud risks; the actions a grantee can take to protect itself from grant fraud; and the administrative, civil, and criminal consequences of grant fraud.
The OIG has met with state and local grants management and oversight officials to provide information on the OIG’s oversight efforts and fraud awareness training that is available from the OIG. Through these meetings, we encouraged prompt and effective reporting to the OIG on any grant or contract issues that involve Department funds. As of October 2009, the OIG has met with grant administrators and oversight officials from 32 states and from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
The OIG has initiated 10 Recovery Act audits and inspections to determine if Department components are properly managing Recovery Act funds in accordance with the Recovery Act, OMB guidelines, and sound grant management practices. The audit work is being performed in phases to provide timely feedback to the Department. The OIG is issuing Management Advisory Memoranda, which identify risk areas as soon as the OIG becomes aware of them and recommend actions that grant administrators can implement to minimize that risk.
Finally, the Recovery Act designated the Department’s Inspector General Glenn Fine as one of the members of the Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board. The Board is coordinating oversight of Recovery Act funds throughout the federal government.
Highlights of OIG Recovery Act Audits and Inspections
- As noted in the section of this report on ATF, the OIG examined ATF’s plans to use $10 million in Recovery Act funds and $11.9 million in other appropriations to expand Project Gunrunner, a national initiative to reduce firearms trafficking to Mexico. We concluded that some of ATF’s planned activities do not appear to represent the best use of resources to reduce firearms trafficking and that ATF needs to develop more specific program measures to accurately assess Project Gunrunner’s impact on cross-border firearms trafficking.
- The OIG issued a technical advice report to COPS regarding its handling of grant Recovery Act funds. To improve COPS’ grantee compliance, we recommended that COPS collect more information from grantees, such as how funds will be managed, and require high-risk grantees to demonstrate their understanding of key grant-related responsibilities. The OIG also noted that COPS could bolster its grant monitoring efforts by upgrading its training programs for grantees and by improving its information-sharing with OJP and OVW.
During the course of our audits of Recovery Act funds, we issued Management Advisory Memoranda to Department granting agencies in an effort to provide timely notice of potential issues we found during our audits. The following are examples of these Management Advisory Memoranda.
- The OIG is auditing OJP’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Formula Grants, which allow states and local governments to support activities to prevent and control crime and improve the criminal justice system. We recommended that OJP improve the transparency of its planned use and allocation of Byrne grant funds.
- The OIG is auditing grants provided by OVCand recommended that OVC improve performance measures for its Recovery Act grants and implement additional monitoring measures for high-risk Recovery Act grant recipients,such as additional site visits, additional desk reviews, and increased communication with award recipients during the award period.
- The OIG is auditing the COPS Hiring Recovery Program, a competitive grant program that provides funding directly to law enforcement agencies to create and preserve law enforcement jobs and enhance community policing efforts. We recommended that COPS strengthen vetting procedures in making award decisions, improve transparency in the award selection methodology, ensure compliance among grant recipients with the officer retention requirement, and ensure timely implementation and use of the funding.
- The OIG is auditing grants provided by OVW in five violence prevention programs. We recommended that OVW share lists of transitional housing assistance award recipients with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which have programs with similar scopes and purposes. We also advised OVW of significant preliminary findings identified during our audit of a specific OVW Recovery Act grant recipient, including a recipient’s lack of controls over other Department grant funds.