The No Suspect Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program

Audit Report No. 05-02
November 2004
Office of the Inspector General


Appendix 4

OJP Response to Audit Recommendations


 

October 19, 2004



MEMORANDUM TO:Guy K. Zimmerman
Assistant Inspector General for Audit

FROM:          /s/
Deborah J. Daniels
Assistant Attorney General

SUBJECT:Draft Audit Report on Office of Justice Programs
No Suspect Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program

This memorandum responds to the Office of the Inspector Generals (OIG) draft audit report issued on September 24, 2004, regarding the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) No Suspect Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program managed by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The draft report contains 19 recommendations and $44,640 in questioned costs, relating to Fiscal Year (FY) 2001 casework grants made under the authority of the DNA Analysis Backlog Elimination Act of 2000. In general, we agree with the draft reportís recommendations.

The current Administration and Congress discontinued this program in favor of the Presidentís DNA Initiative. The Presidentís DNA Initiative, announced by the Attorney General in March 2003, is a comprehensive and flexible approach to harness the power of DNA in the criminal justice system. The DNA initiative contains new program features that successfully address many of the key issues identified by the OIG. For example, under the DNA Initiative, NIJ:

  • awarded FY 2004 casework grants directly to local crime laboratories, ensuring that needed funds reached their ultimate recipients faster.

  • developed an innovative centralized procurement approach for the analysis of convicted offender DNA samples that reduced the unit cost of DNA samples significantly and removed time-consuming procurement responsibilities from State and local laboratories. This system allowed public laboratories to focus on other work, such as DNA casework analysis.

  • added a Special Condition to FY 2004 DNA backlog awards requiring that all Federally-funded DNA profiles eligible for uploading to the Federal Bureau of Investigationís (FBIís) National DNA Index System (NDIS) be uploaded to NDIS in a timely manner. The legislation authorizing the FY 2001 program required only uploading to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), therefore, NIJ could not require grantees to upload samples to NDIS in its FY 2001 grants.

  • added a Special Condition to awards in July 2003 that will require the monthly tracking and reporting of performance measures to NIJ. The performance of FY 2004 grants is tracked monthly, including the monitoring of cash drawdowns to identify those grantees that may be experiencing difficulties in meeting program objectives. NIJ program managers work with the grantees to overcome any identified challenges that may be hindering progress.

  • added a requirement for laboratory accreditation/certification as part of its FY 2004 awards and will continue this requirement in FY 2005 awards. This will help to raise the standards of practice and address the OIGís concerns over some policy and procedure issues at laboratories.

The 11 recommendations pertaining to state and local grantees will be addressed by having NIJ request appropriate documentation from grantees to support that they have worked with the accrediting/certifying organizations and the FBI to address the recommendations. Ten of the 11 state-specific recommendations relate to laboratory accreditation/certification issues, adherence to the FBIís DNA quality assurance standards, and NDIS data acceptance and review procedures. In these areas, NIJ has no standards setting or interpretation authority or responsibility. The authority and responsibility for these matters lie with the FBI and laboratory accreditation/certification organizations. NIJ will work with these agencies to obtain documentation verifying compliance with all required DNA quality assurance standards and NDIS procedures prior to making new awards.

The provisions in the ďJustice for All Act of 2004Ē passed by Congress in October 2004 should improve grantee performance. The Act requires that grantee laboratories be accredited within two years by a nationally-recognized forensic science professional association and undergo external audits at least every two years to demonstrate compliance with the FBIís quality standards. Grantee laboratories must also remedy, as soon as practicable, any deficiencies identified by an external audit. In addition, under the Act, the FBIís NDIS will be able to hold more DNA records in accordance with applicable legal authorities of States, subject to some Federal restrictions. The current Administration supported these provisions and worked with the Congress to enact them.

For ease of review, the 19 recommendations included in the draft report are restated below in bold, followed by our response to the recommendation.

We recommend that OJP:

  1. Develop and implement procedures that will allow Program officials to more closely monitor grantee drawdowns as a means to ensure that adequate progress is being made toward the achievement of each granteeís goals and objectives.

    We agree with the recommendation. In fact, last year NIJ implemented a requirement for program managers to conduct and document reviews of grantee drawdowns on a monthly basis. If significant delays in drawing down funding are discovered, NIJ will address the delays with the grantee.

  2. Ensure that timely uploads of Program-funded profiles are performed by all grantees.

    We agree that uploads of DNA profiles to CODIS, and to NDIS within CODIS, should be made as expeditiously as possible. NIJ will educate grantees that they should review all DNA profile data as quickly as possible, and then upload that data to CODIS, and to NDIS where appropriate. NIJ has already undertaken such an effort by emphasizing this point at the NIJ DNA Granteesí Workshop in June 2004, and will do so at other DNA-related conferences. Further, NIJ added a Special Condition to its FY 2004 DNA backlog program awards requiring that all grant-funded profiles eligible for uploading to NDIS be uploaded to NDIS in a timely manner. The legislation authorizing the original No Suspect Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program required only uploading to CODIS, therefore, NIJ could not require uploading to NDIS in its FY 2001 No Suspect solicitation.

    Many state and local laboratories are unable to review and upload data in a timely manner due to insufficient laboratory personnel resources. Many of the data reviewers are also DNA examiners, and they cannot review and upload data as a full-time job. NIJ will work with the FBI -- the data review standards interpretation agency -- as well as its DNA grantees, to achieve new methods to speed up DNA data review and uploading of profiles to CODIS and NDIS.

  3. Develop program goals and objectives that support the achievement of the programís mission of increasing laboratory capacity, and implement a system to track these goals.

    We agree with this recommendation and have implemented a system to establish and track goals under the Presidentís DNA Initiative. Announced in March 2003, the Presidentís DNA Initiative spells out the goals and objectives that NIJ is following for all DNA-related grant programs: (1) eliminating DNA backlogs, (2) increasing crime laboratory DNA analysis capacity, (3) stimulating DNA research and development, (4) training the criminal justice community, and (5) advancing the use of DNA in solving missing persons cases.

    To further refine and track these goals, in FY 2003, NIJ instituted new program objectives and performance measures to monitor progress toward achieving these goals and objectives. The new goals, objectives and performance measures have been incorporated into NIJís revised Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) charts. Some of the programís performance measures include: (1) reducing time from receipt of DNA samples to uploading the data to CODIS and NDIS; (2) the number of DNA profiles uploaded to CODIS and NDIS; and (3) reducing the number of backlogged cases and samples. In July 2003, NIJ added a Special Condition to awards that will require the monthly tracking and reporting of performance measures to NIJ. The performance of FY 2004 grants is also tracked monthly.

  4. Develop performance measurements that allow the monitoring of progress toward achieving the Programís mission, such as monitoring laboratory capacity prior to, during and at the conclusion of the program.

    We agree with the recommendation. Beginning in July 2003, NIJ developed and instituted new performance measures, in support of the programís mission, goals and objectives and to monitor NIJís and granteesí progress towards achieving program goals. Further, NIJ has developed, and will soon implement, a new Grant Progress Assessment (GPA) Program, through which trained DNA examiner-auditors hired by NIJ through the Forensic Resources Network, will conduct grant progress and compliance assessments and report their findings to NIJ for any necessary follow-up or appropriate funding actions. Spot-checks of profile uploads to CODIS and NDIS, adherence to DNA quality assurance standards and solicitation requirements, as well as a progress check of performance measures, will be included in the granteesí assessments.

  5. Monitor granteesí progress in drawing down funds prior to awarding them additional funding, and closely examine the reasons additional funding is requested. If funding is awarded, a justification supporting the decision should be carefully documented, specifically addressing the rationale for the untimely drawdowns.

    We agree with the recommendation. Last year, NIJ implemented a procedure for the program manager to monitor grantee drawdowns on a monthly basis. Past performance and drawdown issues are now documented as part of NIJís review of grantee applications for new funding.

  6. De-obligate funds for Program grantees that have failed to draw down their Program funds in a timely manner and are unable to provide satisfactory evidence that they will be able to do so in the near future.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ will closely monitor future grantee drawdowns and performance, and will consider de-obligating funding, among other options, for grantees that are unable to make adequate progress in accomplishing the purposes of the grant.

  7. Ensure that Program requirements in future years stipulate that all laboratories analyzing no-suspect cases to meet the same accreditation/certification requirements, regardless of whether the laboratory is public or private.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ has already instituted identical quality assurance and accreditation requirements for both public and private laboratories in its FY 2004 DNA solicitations. This requirement will continue in future solicitations.

  8. Ensure that future solicitations clarify that the expectation of grantees is ultimately to upload all viable grant-funded profiles to NDIS.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJís FY 2005 DNA casework solicitation will include the specific requirement that all eligible DNA profiles be uploaded to NDIS. NIJ also added a special condition to the FY 2004 DNA casework awards requiring that all NDIS-viable profiles be uploaded to NDIS.

  9. Verify that the TXDPS has implemented the necessary measures to ensure that the Fort Worth Police Departmentís grant-funded profiles will be uploaded to NDIS.

    We agree with the intent of this recommendation, although the FY 2001 No Suspect Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program did not require uploading of profiles to NDIS. This program was tied to the DNA Backlog Elimination Act of 2000, which required uploading of DNA profiles only to CODIS, not NDIS. We have added the NDIS uploading requirement for the FY 2004 awards, and will continue to do so under the Presidentís DNA Initiative.

  10. Ensure the FDLE, Investigative and Forensic Science Services (IFSS), Tallahassee, implements a policy to routinely distribute a copy of contractor oversight documentation to all laboratories participating in its outsourcing contracts.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ will request a written response from FDLE detailing procedures implemented to ensure that contractor oversight documentation is routinely distributed to laboratories participating in its outsourcing contracts. NIJ has added the requirement for laboratory accreditation/certification in its 2004 solicitations and will continue this requirement in future solicitations.

  11. Require the FDLE, IFSS, Tallahassee, to ensure that the Jacksonville Regional Operations Center, as a co-grantee of the grant made to Florida, create a comprehensive policy that will contain current procedures in use for the outsourcing of no-suspect casework evidence, and formally approve and implement that policy.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ will request documentation from FDLE to support that the Jacksonville Regional Operations Center has created and implemented a comprehensive written policy for outsourcing no-suspect casework evidence.

  12. Require the FDLE, IFSS, Tallahassee, to ensure that Bode Technology Group implements a policy for the cleaning of the pass-through that exists between the pre-amplification and post-amplification areas.

    We agree with the recommendation. On September 30, 2004, your office notified the OJP Audit Liaison that it had received sufficient information from the Bode Technology Group to close this recommendation.

  13. Require the TXDPS to ensure that the Fort Worth Police Department, as a co-grantee of the grant made to Texas, begin maintaining records to substantiate their vendorís ongoing compliance with the QAS.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ will request a written response from TXDPS detailing procedures to ensure that the Fort Worth Police Department maintains records to substantiate their vendorís compliance with DNA quality assurance standards.

  14. Require the TXDPS to ensure that the Houston Police Department, as a co-grantee of the grant made to Texas, completes and documents an on-site visit to their contractor laboratory sufficient to meet the requirements of the QAS.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ will request documentation from TXDPS to support that the Houston Police Department has completed and documented an on-site visit to their contractor that meets the quality assurance standards.

  15. Require the TXDPS to ensure that the Houston Police Department, as a co-grantee of the grant made to Texas, create a comprehensive policy that will contain current procedures in use for the outsourcing of no-suspect casework evidence, and formally approve and implement that policy.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ will request documentation from TXDPS to support that the Houston Police Department has created and implemented a comprehensive written policy for outsourcing no-suspect casework evidence.

  16. Require the TXDPS, through the Fort Worth Police Department, as a co-grantee of the grant made to Texas, to ensure that Orchid Cellmark in Dallas, Texas, implements a policy for the cleaning of the pass-through that exists between the pre-amplification and the post-amplification areas.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ will request documentation from the TXDPS to support that they have worked with the appropriate DNA laboratory accrediting/certifying bodies and Orchid Cellmark in Dallas, TX, to ensure that the pass-through area is cleaned, and that all DNA quality assurance standards have been met by Orchid Cellmark.

  17. Require the New York State DCJS to ensure that the NCPD, as a co-grantee of the grant made to New York, create a comprehensive policy that will contain current procedures in use for the outsourcing of no-suspect casework evidence, and formally approve and implement that policy.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ will request documentation from New York State DCJS to support that the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) has created and implemented a comprehensive written policy for outsourcing no-suspect casework evidence.

  18. Require the New York State DCJS to ensure that Orchid Cellmark in Germantown, Maryland, implements a policy requiring that evidence, after being received and logged in by the receptionist, is immediately placed in a limited access or secure area while awaiting the attention of technical personnel.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ will request documentation from the New York State DCJS to support that Orchard Cellmark in Germantown, Maryland implements a written policy requiring that evidence, after being received and logged in by the receptionist, is immediately placed in a limited access or secure area while awaiting the attention of technical personnel.

  19. Ensure that the New York State DCJS remedies questioned costs of $44,640 for the Nassau County Police Department cases for which the contractor laboratory was paid for complete analysis but only screening was performed.

    We agree with the recommendation. NIJ and the Office of the Comptroller will work with the New York State DCJS and NCPD to remedy questioned costs of $44,640.

We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the draft report. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me on 202-307-5933, or LeToya A. Johnson, OJP Audit Liaison, on 202-514-0692.

Attachments

cc: Beth McGarry
Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General

Sarah V. Hart, Director
National Institute of Justice

Cynthia J. Schwimer
Comptroller, OJP

Richard P. Theis, Acting Director
Audit Liaison Office
Justice Management Division

LeToya A. Johnson
OJP Audit Liaison

OJP Executive Secretariat
Control No. 20041842