Federal Grants:

More Can Be Done to Improve Weed and Seed Program Management

GGD-99-110: Published: Jul 16, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 1999.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the effectiveness of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Weed and Seed Program, focusing on how: (1) the program is managed by DOJ's Executive Office for Weed and Seed (EOWS); (2) EOWS monitors local Weed and Seed sites to ensure that grant requirements are met; (3) EOWS determines when sites have become self-sustaining; and (4) EOWS and selected sites are measuring program results.

GAO noted that: (1) EOWS has not established an adequate internal control requiring that significant program management decisions be documented; (2) without this control, EOWS management has not always fully documented EOWS decisions; (3) for example, in reviewing 12 of the 70 fiscal year (FY) 1999 new site qualification funding decisions, GAO found that for 5 of these 12 decisions, documentation was insufficient for GAO to determine how inconsistencies among external consultants and grant monitor recommendations and EOWS management decisions were reconciled; (4) in FY 1999, EOWS made decisions to qualify 164 of the existing 177 sites for continued funding, although in some cases, EOWS grant monitors recommended against additional funding; (5) however, available documentation was insufficient for GAO to determine the basis and rationale for EOWS' deciding to qualify these sites for continued funding; (6) for the remaining 13 sites that EOWS decided not to qualify for continued funding, documentation was sufficient to determine the basis and rationale for these decisions; (7) EOWS also did not always ensure that local Weed and Seed sites met critical grant requirements; (8) progress reports are an important tool to help EOWS management and grant monitors determine how sites are meeting program objectives and to assist in making future grant qualification decisions; (9) EOWS has not developed criteria to determine when sites have become self-sustaining and when to reduce or withdraw Weed and Seed funds, even though the goal of sites' becoming self-sustaining is central to the program; (10) while GAO identified actions that selected sites had taken toward self-sustainment, at the time of GAO's review, no site's funding had been reduced or withdrawn as a result of its efforts to become self-sustaining during the 9 years of the program's existence; (11) EOWS' performance indicators generally did not measure program results; (12) while GAO's review was in progress, EOWS changed some of its performance indicators in an attempt to better measure how well sites were meeting program objectives; (13) however, the revised indicators still primarily tracked program activity rather than results; (14) despite the general lack of performance indicators, most local officials with whom GAO spoke commented favorably on the activities funded by the local Weed and Seed sites; and (15) they believed that a key ingredient to the Weed and Seed Program's success was the commitment of the mayors' and U.S. Attorneys' offices and civic and business leaders.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Executive Office of Weed and Seed Policy and Procedures Manual is under development. DOJ reported that this manual will include criteria and basic requirements for site qualification for funding eligibility. In addition, DOJ reported that written internal control procedures for making and documenting site selection decisions are being refined. EOWS implemented this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Director of the Executive Office of Weed and Seed to develop an adequate internal control to ensure that the basis and rationale for new and existing site qualification for funding decisions are always fully documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Executive Office of Weed and Seed reports that all progress reports are now up to date. New approaches will be explored to address a chronic problem of grantees not submitting program progress reports in a timely manner such as restricting access to funding where a grantee continually fails to submit progress reports in a timely manner. EOWS implemented this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Director of the Executive Office of Weed and Seed to improve program monitoring to ensure that sites meet the grant requirement of submitting progress reports, and that EOWS site visits are documented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Executive Office of Weed and Seed reported that a quantitative measure of self-sustainment is problematic, and specifying a particular level of resources is likely to be arbitrary. However, it will explore ways to help sites measure their progress toward self-sustainment, recognizing all the methodological difficulties.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Director of the Executive Office of Weed and Seed to develop criteria for determining when sites are self-sustaining and when to reduce or withdraw program funding.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Executive Office of Weed and Seed (EOWS) reported that it took several actions to expand its efforts to measure performance, including program measures that track program outcomes. In fiscal year (FY) 2002, EOWS awarded a contract to the Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA) to collect outcome-focused data. EOWS is working on another award to JRSA for more analytical work in response to DOJ's request for collection of more outcome-based information. In FY 2001, EOWS told GAO that it had revised its Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) form to collect and measure program outcomes and, in response to a GAO request, to collect information on funds that help sites to implement the Weed and Seed Strategy. In FY 2001-2002, Weed and Seed grant applicants received training on how GPRA data is to be provided to EOWS. This training is to be continued in future years.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the Director of the Executive Office of Weed and Seed to develop additional performance measures that track program outcomes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

 

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