Justice Discretionary Grants:

Byrne Program and Violence Against Women Office Grant Monitoring Should Be Better Documented

GAO-02-25: Published: Nov 27, 2001. Publicly Released: Nov 28, 2001.

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GAO reviewed grant monitoring and evaluation efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Justice Program (OJP). This report discusses the monitoring of discretionary grants awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA) Byrne Program and the Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) within OJP. In constant 2000 dollars, Byrne and VAWO discretionary grants grew about 85 percent--from $105 million to $194 million between fiscal years 1997 and 2000. These funds were awarded to state and local governments, either on a competitive basis or pursuant to legislation allocating funds through congressional earmarks. BJA and VAWO, together with OJP's Office of the Comptroller, are responsible for monitoring these grants to ensure they are implemented as intended, are responsive to grant goals and objectives, and comply with statutory regulations and policy guidelines. OJP's monitoring requirements include the development of monitoring plans that articulate who will conduct monitoring, the manner in which it will be done, and when and what type of monitoring activities are planned. Grant managers are to maintain documentation in grant files using such techniques as written reports of on-site reviews and telephone interview write-ups. GAO's review of 46 Byrne and 84 VAWO discretionary grants indicated that only 29 percent of Byrne and 11 percent of VAWO award files contained monitoring plans. In addition, for awards covering the most recent 12-month period, grant managers were not consistently documenting their monitoring activities. BJA and VAWO cannot systematically oversee grant managers' compliance with monitoring requirements because documentation is not readily available. Both BJA and VAWO rely on staff meetings and discussions to identify grant problems or monitoring issues, and neither have management information systems to compile and analyze data on monitoring activities. OJP has begun to work with its bureaus and offices to address grant management problems, but it is too early to tell whether OJP's efforts will be effective.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Our review of grant monitoring and evaluation efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Justice Program (OJP), particularly discretionary grants awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA) Byrne Program and the Violence Against Women Office (VAWO)within OJP, showed that grant managers were not consistently documenting their monitoring activities. Our work also showed that BJA and VAWO could not systematically oversee grant managers' compliance with monitoring requirements because documentation was not readily available. In commenting on our report, OJP said that it believed that some level of grant monitoring had occurred during the period of GAO's review, but agreed that OJP needed to develop more consistent documentation of programmatic monitoring activities. Also, OJP stated that that BJA and VAWO had implemented or planned to implement a number of steps to improve grant monitoring. For example, according to OJP, BJA developed a management information system to track grant monitoring activities; implemented grant rating criteria to determine which grantees needed onsite visits; and implemented standardized procedures for on-site monitoring, including procedures for filing reports in official grant files. In addition, OJP reported that VAWO took steps to develop a grant monitoring manual to articulate procedures for various types of monitoring and developed a management information system to monitor grantee submission of required reports and enable follow-up with delinquent grantees. However, it was unclear whether BJA and VAWO operationalized these initiatives.

    Recommendation: To facilitate and improve the management of program monitoring, the Attorney General should direct the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and Violence Against Women Office (VAWO) to review whether the documentation problems GAO identified were and indication of grant monitoring requirements not being met or of a failure to document activities that did, in fact, take place. If monitoring requirements are not being met, the Attorney General should direct BJA and VAWO to determine why this is so and to take into account those reasons as they consider solutions for improving compliance with the requirements. If it is determined that required monitoring is taking place but is not being documented, the Attorney General should take steps to direct BJA and VAWO to periodically articulate and enforce clear expectations regarding documentation of monitoring activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Our review of grant monitoring and evaluation efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Justice Program (OJP), particularly discretionary grants awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance's (BJA) Byrne Program and the Violence Against Women Office (VAWO)within OJP showed that neither BJA or VAWO had management information systems to compile and analyze data on monitoring activities. We recommended that the Attorney General direct OJP to (1) study and recommend ways to establish an OJP-wide approach for systematically testing or reviewing official and program files to ensure that the grant managers in its various bureaus and offices were consistently documenting their monitoring activities in accordance with OJP requirements and the Comptroller General's internal control standards and (2) explore ways to electronically compile and maintain documentation of monitoring activities to facilitate more consistent documentation among grant managers and more accessible oversight by bureau and program office managers: and facilitate sound performance measurement, consistent with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993. OJP reported that it begun to work with its bureaus and offices to address grant management problems and, in January 2002, said that it planned to institute a grant management system for all formula and discretionary grant programs emanating from all OJP bureaus and offices. OJP stated that it planned to design the system to produce reports and information on grants from their opening to closing, and would be developed considering the Comptroller General's internal control standards. However, OJP has been reorganized (VAWO is no longer organizationally part of OJP) and it was unclear what steps OJP had taken to operationalize its plans.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to study and recommend ways to establish an OJP-wide approach for systematically testing or reviewing official and program files to ensure that the grant managers in its various bureaus and offices are consistently documenting their monitoring activities in accordance with OJP requirements and the Comptroller General's internal control standards. Furthermore, the Attorney General should direct OJP to explore ways to electronically compile and maintain documentation of monitoring activities to facilitate (1) more consistent documentation among grant managers; (2) more accessible oversight by bureau and program office managers; and (3) sound performance measurement, consistent with the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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