|The Office of Justice Programs (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 five bureaus – Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Bureau of Justice Statistics, 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 the management of OJP grant programs for victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers lure victims, mostly women and children, with false promises of better lives and then force them to work under inhumane conditions.
OJP awards grants to task forces that identify and rescue trafficking victims and enters into cooperative agreements with service providers to provide food, clothing, shelter, and other forms of assistance to trafficking victims. During FYs 2003 through 2007, OVC awarded $31.7 million to providers of services for trafficking victims, and BJA awarded $19.2 million in grants for 42 task forces across the country.
We found that human trafficking grant programs were effective in building the capacity to serve victims of human trafficking, but the programs were not effective in identifying and serving significant numbers of trafficking victims, ensuring that award amounts were consistent with the anticipated number of victims to be served, and ensuring that service providers and task forces reported accurate performance data on victims identified and served. In addition, OJP had not established an effective system for monitoring service providers and task forces, although improvements to the monitoring system were underway at the time of our audit.
Our audit found that even with the work of the task forces, the service providers were reaching a small number of victims. The Department reported in July 2005 that an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 human trafficking victims are brought into the United States annually. However, from 2005 through 2007 the task forces reported identifying 2,103 potential victims, and the service providers reported serving 1,444 victims.
We also found that OJP’s agreement award process resulted in a wide variation in funds awarded compared to the number of victims anticipated to be served. For example, one service provider received nearly $1.9 million to supply services to an estimated 100 victims over the 3-year agreement period ($18,965 per estimated victim). Another provider received $490,829 to service an estimated 100 victims over the 3-year agreement period ($4,908 per estimated victim). For the 19 agreements we tested, the amount awarded per anticipated victim ranged from a high of $33,333 to a low of $2,500.
In addition, the OIG’s testing of individual task forces and service providers identified systemic deficiencies similar to those found in past OIG reviews of OJP grant programs. These deficiencies included failure to accomplish project goals, submission of inaccurate program and financial reports, questionable expenditures of about $1.5 million, and poor monitoring of sub-recipients.
We made 15 recommendations to help OJP improve management of its grant program for human trafficking victims. OJP 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:
OJP awarded more than $1.5 million in funds from October 2003 to April 2008 to San Mateo County, California, for the Southwest Border Prosecution Initiative (SWBPI). Our audit found that all of the cases San Mateo claimed and was reimbursed for were ineligible under the SWBPI guidelines. In particular, San Mateo received unallowable reimbursements for 1,076 cases submitted because they were not federally initiated. OJP agreed with our recommendation to attempt to recover the more than $1.5 million in questioned costs for the 1,076 unallowable cases that were submitted for reimbursement under SWBPI.
As of April 15, 2008, Humboldt County, California, received SWBPI funding totaling $728,445. Our audit found that Humboldt County claimed and was reimbursed $525,347 for cases that were ineligible under the SWBPI guidelines. We also found that Humboldt County received excess reimbursements totaling $30,542. As a result, we identified questioned costs totaling $555,889 and recommended that OJP attempt to recover both the $525,347 and $30,542 in questioned costs. OJP agreed with our recommendation to remedy the total questioned costs.
As of September 20, 2004, OJP awarded the City of Oakland, California, a Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative grant totaling $1.05 million to fund Project Choice, a reentry program. We found that Oakland did not exercise adequate programmatic oversight of Project Choice to ensure that 1) services had been rendered to eligible program participants, 2) contractors maintained accurate and complete records of program participants and their outcomes, and 3) records were retained for audit purposes. Our report contained two recommendations due to the deficiencies identified, and we questioned the total grant amount resulting from inadequate programmatic oversight. OJP concurred with the report’s recommendations.
In September 2004, an NIJ Crime Laboratory Improvement Program cooperative agreement worth nearly $2 million was awarded to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety in Trenton, New Jersey, to purchase equipment to increase capacity, replace obsolete technologies, and improve safety conditions at New Jersey State Police forensic science laboratories. We reviewed compliance with six essential agreement conditions and found material weaknesses in four of the six areas: 1) agreement expenditures, 2) matching expenditures, 3) reporting, and 4) program performance. We determined that the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety charged $13,942 in unallowable expenditures for items not budgeted and $24,527 in unallowable indirect costs. Our audit also found $815,960 in matching expenditures that were unsupported. As a result of these deficiencies, we questioned a total of $854,429 in expenditures. OJP agreed with our findings.
NIJ awarded two Convicted Offender DNA Backlog Reduction Program cooperative agreements totaling nearly $2 million to the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety. Our audit found that the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety charged $99,349 in unsupported overtime personnel expenditures, $18,466 in pre-agreement personnel and fringe benefit expenditures, and $2,527 in unallowable non-budgeted administrative equipment. We also found and recommended that $179,899 in unspent funding from both agreements be deobligated and put to better use because the objective of the program had been achieved. As a result of the deficiencies, we questioned a total of $300,241 in funding. OJP agreed with our findings.
During this reporting period, the OIG received 17 complaints involving OJP. The most common allegations made against OJP employees, contractors, or grantees were fraud. The OIG opened 11 cases.
At the close of the reporting period, the OIG had 24 open criminal or administrative investigations of alleged misconduct related to OJP employees, contractors, or grantees. The criminal investigations include d grantee fraud, contract fraud, 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 2008 Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported on a joint investigation by the OIG’s San Francisco Area Investigations and Audit Offices, FBI, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and IRS that led to the arrest of the former Mayor of Fairbanks, Alaska, and his wife on charges of theft of $450,000 in federal grant funds, conspiracy, and money laundering. The investigation determined that the former Mayor and his wife used grant funds from OJP and HUD that were designated to operate a non-profit organization to purchase a flat screen television and other items for personal use and to partially fund the building of their church. During this reporting period, the former Mayor was sentenced to 66 months’ incarceration followed by 3 years’ supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $314,000, pursuant to his conviction of theft of government funds, conspiracy, money laundering, and submitting false tax returns. His wife was sentenced to 3 years’ incarceration followed by 3 years’ supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $447,000, pursuant to her guilty plea to charges of money laundering and theft of federal funds.
In our September 2007 Semiannual Report to Congress, we reported on an investigation by the OIG’s Fraud Detection Office that led to the arrest and indictment in the Western District of Oklahoma of three OJP grantees on charges of conspiracy, theft, and aiding and abetting. In September 2002, OVW awarded a $299,815 grant to the South Central Region Tribal Nations and Friends Domestic Violence Coalition to assist in its efforts to support victims of domestic violence. Our investigation determined that the executive director of the Coalition stole over $100,000 in grant funds, and two board members of the Coalition stole approximately $25,000 and $37,000, respectively. All three pled guilty to charges of conspiracy to embezzle Department grant funds. During this reporting period, the executive director was sentenced to 17 months’ incarceration followed by 2 years’ supervised release and ordered to pay $105,638 in restitution, the first board member was sentenced to 8 months’ incarceration followed by 2 years’ supervised release and ordered to pay $25,006 in restitution, and the second board member was sentenced to 15 months’ incarceration followed by 2 years’ supervised release and ordered to pay $37,816 in restitution.
The OIG is assessing the adequacy of NIJ’s grant administration and oversight of the Convicted Offender DNA Backlog Reduction Grant Program. We are evaluating the extent to which grantees have administered the grants in accordance with applicable laws, regulations, guidelines, and terms and conditions of the grant awards; the adequacy of NIJ’s oversight of vendors as well as vendor compliance with contractual obligations; and whether the program is accomplishing its stated mission to reduce the convicted offender backlog.
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 audit stems from allegations that the OJJDP Administrator and his executive staff bypassed several highly rated proposals for the National Juvenile Justice Program in favor of lower-rated ones.
NIJ’s Grant and Contract Award Practices
The OIG is determining whether competitive NIJ grants and contracts awarded in the last 3 fiscal years were awarded based on fair and open competition. We also are examining the administrative costs related to NIJ grants and contracts.