Semiannual Report to Congress
October 1, 2004–March 31, 2005
Office of the Inspector General
Through the NIJ, OJP administers the No Suspect Casework DNA Backlog Reduction Program, which provides funding to states for the identification, collection, and analysis of DNA samples from evidence collected in cases where no suspect has been developed or in which the original suspect has been eliminated.
Our audit focused on approximately $28.5 million in grants awarded by OJP during the first year of the program. Those funds were distributed to 25 states for the analysis of over 24,700 no-suspect DNA cases. Analyses were to be conducted by the DNA laboratories within the grantee’s state, by outsourcing to state or local laboratories outside the grantee’s state, by outsourcing to contractor laboratories, or by some combination of these methods. Resultant DNA profiles then were to be uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System, a database used by participating state forensic laboratories to compare DNA profiles, with the goal of matching case evidence to other previously unrelated cases or to persons already convicted of specific crimes.
Our audit found that while program grantees were funded for the analysis of over 24,700 backlogged no-suspect cases, current data does not reveal whether increased laboratory capacity to process and analyze no-suspect cases is being achieved, particularly for states that are strictly outsourcing DNA analyses. We also found weaknesses in OJP’s administration and oversight of the program. For example, OJP awarded additional funding to seven grantees that had not shown the ability to effectively draw down and expend their existing grant fundings. In addition, OJP subjected contractor laboratories participating in the program to more stringent certification and accreditation requirements than participating state and local laboratories. OJP also failed to provide adequate guidance to grantees to ensure that all program-funded DNA profiles were ultimately loaded into the national DNA database.
Our audit found that four laboratories did not maintain adequate documentation to substantiate that their oversight of contractor laboratories met certain quality assurance requirements, and that some costs charged to program awards were unallowable or unsupported. We made 19 recommendations to OJP to help improve the program and address issues identified in our audit. Those recommendations included the following:
OJP agreed with our recommendations and plans on implementing new or enhanced policies and procedures.
COPS, OJP, and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) are the primary Department agencies responsible for providing criminal justice grant funding to tribal governments. From FYs 2000 to 2003, these agencies awarded $424.2 million to tribal governments. We audited the overall strategies of COPS, OJP, and OVW for awarding grants to tribal governments, how they monitored tribal grantees, and whether costs charged by grantees were allowable and in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grants.
Our audit revealed that these agencies were not effectively monitoring tribal grant programs. We found that only 4 percent of the 102 grant files we reviewed contained on-site monitoring reports, only 12 percent contained office-based desk reviews, and none contained evidence that telephone monitoring was conducted. Additionally, 81 percent of the grant files reviewed were missing one or more required financial reports, and 80 percent were missing one or more required progress reports. COPS only sporadically required progress reports for its grants, and no progress reports were required for grants awarded after FY 2001. Despite the fact that required financial and progress reports were not submitted for certain grants, none of the 3 agencies prohibited grantees from using funds totaling $10.69 million.
Our audit also disclosed that OJP and OVW did not ensure that funds for tribal grant programs were made available in a timely manner. Grant funds totaling $58.93 million were delayed more than 6 months after the award start date for 199 OJP and OVW grants. Additionally, 78 grants totaling $38.21 million that were awarded prior to FY 2003 had not been used. Those amounts included 40 grants totaling $3 million that had expired.
We found that COPS, OJP, and OVW were not closing out expired grants in a timely manner, which resulted in questioned costs of $6.06 million and $10.95 million in funds that could be put to better use. We reviewed 758 expired tribal grants and found that only 149 (20 percent) had been closed. Only 32 of those grants (21 percent) were closed in a timely manner – within 180 days after the grant expired. We also identified 460 expired grants more than 180 days past the grant end date that had not been closed. Of those grants, 112 were expired for more than 2 years.
Our report contained 53 recommendations to improve the monitoring and administration of tribal-specific grant programs and enhance the Department’s overall strategy for grants awarded to tribal governments. OVW and OJP agreed with most of the recommendations, while COPS agreed with half of the recommendations.
We continued to audit grants awarded by OJP and COPS. Examples of findings from these audits during this reporting period included the following:
The following is an example of a case involving COPS that the OIG investigated:
In 1998, the methamphetamine initiative was established by Congress and administered by COPS to help alleviate the spread of methamphetamine. Since then, COPS has invested more than $350 million nationwide to combat the spread of methamphetamine. The OIG is assessing the adequacy of COPS’ administration of methamphetamine initiative grants and its monitoring of grantee activities. We also are evaluating the extent to which the grantees have administered grants in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grant awards.
OVC was created in 1984 to assist crime victims with recovery from physical, emotional, and psychological injury. The OIG is reviewing OVC to determine whether: 1) timely assistance was provided to jurisdictions in order to address victim needs in the aftermath of an act of terrorism or mass violence, 2) the eligibility of applicants was properly ascertained, and 3) the purposes for funding grants were allowable.
Pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, the NIJ sponsors the development of counterterrorism technologies through its collaborations with various technology partners. The OIG is reviewing the NIJ’s Antiterrorism Technology Development Program to: 1) determine whether program funds were awarded for projects that satisfy the intent of the program, 2) assess the adequacy of program oversight, 3) determine whether grantees have used program funds in accordance with grant requirements, and 4) assess the adequacy of the program’s progress toward meeting its goals and objectives.
OVC initiated the Tribal Victim Assistance Discretionary Grant Program in 1988 to establish, expand, and improve direct service victim assistance programs for federally recognized tribes. From FYs 2000 to 2003, OVC awarded 56 grants totaling $6.76 million. The OIG is examining grantee performance information to determine whether grant objectives are being achieved.