OJP manages the majority of the Department’s grant programs and is responsible for developing initiatives to address crime at the state and local levels. OJP is composed of 5 bureaus – 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. In this section, we discuss OJP’s oversight of grant funds awarded through the regular appropriations process. We discuss our work related to OJP’s oversight of grant funds awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 in a separate section in this semiannual report.
The OIG’s Audit Division examined the Department’s management of grant programs that fund state and local offender reentry initiatives. Over 650,000 individuals are released from federal and state prisons annually, and a greater number reenter communities from local jails. According to the Department, over 50 percent of those released from prison will be in some form of legal trouble within 3 years.
Since FY 2002, OJP has implemented three offender reentry grant programs to reduce recidivism and to help state, local, and community organizations provide assistance to released inmates as they transition to life outside prison. In total, from FY 2002 through FY 2009, OJP awarded $173.9 million and 154 grants in all 50 states through its offender reentry grant programs.
This audit identified design flaws in the initial implementation of the Department’s reentry grant programs. We determined that OJP did not adequately define key terms essential for determining whether program goals were met, did not require grantees to identify baseline recidivism rates needed to calculate changes in recidivism, and did not analyze performance measurement data. As a result of these design flaws, neither OJP nor the OIG could determine definitively the effectiveness of OJP’s grant programs in reducing recidivism. Additionally, as noted in the audit report, an independent national evaluation of the effectiveness of one of OJP’s grant programs concluded that the program had no significant impact on participant recidivism.
Our audit concluded that OJP could improve its management and oversight of offender reentry grant programs. In our review of specific OJP grants awarded under the first grant program, the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative, we found little documentation of OJP’s monitoring of grantees, and we questioned approximately $5.2 million in grant expenditures. While OJP increased the documentation of its grant monitoring activities under its second grant program, the Prisoner Reentry Initiative, we also found a decreased quality in the reviews of grantees that OJP performed. We did not evaluate the monitoring that OJP conducted of its third grant program, the Second Chance Act, because those grants were only recently awarded.
The report made 11 recommendations to assist OJP in designing and managing current and future reentry grant programs. OJP agreed with the recommendations, including enhanced training for grantees, clarification of grant solicitations, and initiation of a project to evaluate the reentry grant program.
During this reporting period, the OIG continued to conduct audits of various grants and other financial assistance provided by OJP. Examples of findings from these audits included the following:
- The OIG audited 10 Community Capacity Development Office Weed and Seed grants and 2 BJA grants totaling over $5 million awarded to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The purpose of the Weed and Seed grants was to establish and sustain a community-based strategy to prevent, control, and reduce violent crime, drug abuse, and gang activity in designated high-crime neighborhoods within Oklahoma City. One of the BJA grants was part of a nationwide initiative intended to reduce gang membership and violence in 10 districts. The purpose of the other BJA grant was to help Oklahoma City provide a multi-jurisdictional intelligence-led policing approach to reduce violent crime. Oklahoma City has high rates of crime and the city has experienced a significant increase in gang-related shootings and homicides.
- An OIG audit examined the funding provided to Los Angeles County, California, under the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative (SWBPI). SWBPI is a program in which the Department provides reimbursement to the four Southwest border states and local jurisdictions for prosecution and pre-trial detention costs in federally-initiated cases that are declined by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. The OIG audit examined over $22 million in SWBPI reimbursements received by Los Angeles County from FY 2002 through FY 2008 and found that Los Angeles County claimed and was reimbursed for cases that were ineligible under the SWBPI guidelines. Specifically, the audit identified questioned costs totaling over $2.2 million for more than 500 cases that did not meet SWBPI’s guidelines for reimbursement. Our report made seven recommendations to OJP related to remedying the questioned costs received by Los Angeles County. OJP agreed with each of our recommendations.
Our audit questioned over $300,000 in grant funds and identified several internal control discrepancies, including instances where: (1) drawdowns exceeded expenditures and in some cases were drawn months after the 90-day grant closeout period; (2) financial status reports were filed late or were inaccurate; (3) accountable property control records were inadequate; and (4) a city employee opened a bank account in the name of Oklahoma City and improperly gave himself exclusive signatory authority. Included in the questioned costs were $12,000 in binoculars purchased with the grant, but not used for the grant program – one pair of $400 binoculars was used on a hunting trip and subsequently sold to a local pawn shop. In addition, we found the city purchased video arcade games, samurai swords, and a 65-inch flat panel television and drop-down media cabinet. We questioned $192,432 as unallowable, $19,929 as unsupported, and the remaining $94,240 in matching costs that were agreed to but never provided by the city. OJP agreed with our eight recommendations and agreed to coordinate with Oklahoma City to remedy the questioned costs and implement appropriate corrective action.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 14 complaints involving OJP. The most common allegation made against OJP employees, contractors, or grantees was grantee fraud. The OIG opened 5 cases and referred several complaints to OJP for its review and appropriate action.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 28 open criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct related to OJP employees, contractors, or grantees. The majority of these criminal investigations were grantee fraud. The following are examples of cases involving OJP that the OIG’s Investigations Division handled during this reporting period:
- The former executive director of the National Training and Information Center (NTIC), a non-profit corporation in Chicago, Illinois, was debarred by the JMD, effective June 6, 2010, for a period of three years. By this action, the former executive director is precluded from soliciting or receiving contracts or subcontracts from the federal government, or conducting business with the federal government as an agent or representative of a contractor. The debarment was based on an audit by the OIG’s Chicago Regional Audit Office, which uncovered significant irregularities related to a $3,162,580 DOJ grant to NTIC overseen by the executive director, and an investigation by the OIG’s Chicago Field Office, which resulted in his arrest and conviction for misuse of federal program funds. The executive director used the federal program funds to lobby Congress for more federal funds, a purpose which was expressly prohibited under the terms of the grant.
- On May 18, 2010, the Phi Alpha Delta Public Service Center, a Department grantee based in Baltimore, Maryland, agreed to pay $12,919 in restitution to settle civil allegations that a former administrative employee stole grant funds, and to resolve an outstanding claim of unauthorized expenditures of grant funds resulting from an OJP site visit. Phi Alpha Delta is a national law fraternity that received Department grant funds for its public service center. An investigation by the OIG’s Fraud Detection Office determined that the administrative employee stole grant funds totaling $10,051 using the organization’s credit card to pay for personal purchases made at restaurants, gas stations, and retail clothing stores. The civil remedy followed declination of prosecution by the District of Maryland. As a result of this investigation, Phi Alpha Delta also withdrew from receiving $500,000 in Department grant funds that had been awarded to it.
- A former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for the National Children’s Alliance who was indicted in 2009 for theft of grant funds and fled was arrested during this reporting period by the Atlanta Police Department during a routine traffic stop for a broken tail light. An investigation by the OIG’s Fraud Detection Office investigation determined that from October 2005 through May 2007, the former CFO stole a total of $64,390 in Department grant funds from the National Children’s Alliance, a non-profit organization that assists victims of child abuse. The former CFO was indicted in 2009 in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on charges of theft of Department of Justice grant funds. After learning of his indictment, he fled the District of Columbia area and was a fugitive from the warrant for his arrest. Following his arrest, in May 2010 the former CFO pled guilty to theft of Department grant funds. Sentencing is pending.