Juvenile Justice Grants:
DOJ Should Take Additional Actions to Strengthen Performance and Fraud Risk Management
GAO-20-202: Published: Dec 18, 2019. Publicly Released: Dec 18, 2019.
- Highlights Page:
- Full Report:
- Accessible Version:
The Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention awarded over $290 million through 16 grant programs in FY 2018 to help juveniles in the justice system.
We found that this office only has numeric goals (targets) for what it hopes to achieve across its programs collectively. For instance, the office has a target for the percent of youth who offend and reoffend across all applicable grant programs. However, it doesn’t have similar targets for its individual grant programs.
We recommended (among other things) that this office set targets for individual grant programs to assess their performance.
A hand writing on a clipboard in the foreground and a young woman sitting on a chair in the background
- Highlights Page:
- Full Report:
- Accessible Version:
What GAO Found
The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) has goal statements and performance measures for each of its programs, but has not established corresponding program-level targets (specific numeric goals). Rather, OJJDP has established several office-level targets to help assess progress across OJJDP grant programs collectively. For example, OJJDP has a target for the percent of youth who offend and reoffend across all applicable grant programs. Such office-level targets, while useful, might obscure the results of individual programs. Setting program-level targets would help OJJDP assess the progress of each program and reach its goal of increasing accountability for achieving results in individual programs.
Performance Measurement and Fraud Risk Management Definitions
DOJ's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) and DOJ's Justice Management Division (JMD) have taken steps to consider fraud risk affecting OJJDP programs. Specifically, OJP—the grant-making component in which OJJDP resides—has tools it uses to monitor grantee performance and compliance with award terms and conditions. According to OJP, these tools—such as checklists used during desk reviews and site visit audits—provide insight into grant fraud risks. Additionally, JMD—the component that manages fraud risk assessment across all components within DOJ—has taken steps to assess fraud risks affecting OJJDP grant programs. Specifically, JMD conducted department-wide fraud risk assessments in fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019. These assessments addressed all DOJ grants, including OJJDP's.
DOJ's 2017 assessment identified fraud risk scenarios and assessed their likelihood and impact—leading practices in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. Building on the 2017 assessment, the 2018 assessment identified key fraud risk management activities, and the 2019 assessment resulted in a fraud risk profile. However, these assessments did not determine a fraud risk tolerance—i.e. managers' willingness to accept a specific level of risk—as it relates to OJJDP grant programs. JMD officials said they view this as the next step in the maturation of DOJ's fraud risk assessment processes, but did not have details or documentation of plans to do so. Determining a fraud risk tolerance—and assessing fraud risks against that tolerance to prioritize them—would help OJP calibrate resources to address grant fraud risk for OJJDP programs, helping ensure that resources are not under- or over-allocated.
Why GAO Did This Study
OJJDP administers grant programs to improve positive outcomes for juveniles in the justice system. In fiscal year 2018, OJJDP made 295 awards across 16 programs totaling over $290 million.
The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2018 included a provision for GAO to review OJJDP performance and internal controls intended to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse of grant funds.
This report examines the extent to which (1) OJJDP has goals and measures to assess the performance of its programs, and (2) DOJ has considered fraud risks for OJJDP grant programs. GAO reviewed DOJ documentation, such as OJJDP's Performance Measures Manual and OJP's risk management policy. GAO also reviewed performance data from selected OJJDP programs from October 2015 through December 2018, and interviewed DOJ officials.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that (1) OJJDP set performance targets for individual grant programs, and (2) DOJ determine the agency's fraud risk tolerance for all grants—which include OJJDP grant programs—and prioritize fraud risks based on an assessment against that tolerance. DOJ concurred with both recommendations.
Recommendations for Executive Action
Comments: In June 2020, DOJ reported that OJJDP is engaged in a comprehensive effort to improve performance measures. The final step of this process will be the development of performance targets. According to DOJ, OJJDP anticipates setting initial targets for its discretionary grant programs by October 2021 and for the Title II Formula Grant program by March 2023. We believe these actions, when effectively completed, will address our recommendation. We plan to provide an update on OJP's progress in late 2021.
Recommendation: The OJJDP Administrator should set performance targets for individual grant programs. (Recommendation 1)
Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
Comments: In June 2020, DOJ reported that it awarded a new contract in January 2020 that includes a requirement to continue conducting annual fraud risk assessments and update associated fraud risk profiles using the GAO Fraud Risk Framework. DOJ further reported that it will develop a fraud risk tolerance for DOJ grants and prioritize residual fraud risk against that tolerance when it conducts this assessment. We believe these actions, when effectively completed, will address our recommendation. We plan to follow-up with DOJ and provide an update in early 2021.
Recommendation: The Assistant Attorney General for Administration should ensure that future department-level fraud risk profiles (1) determine the department's fraud risk tolerance for DOJ grantswhich include OJJDP grant programs, and (2) prioritize residual fraud risks based on an assessment against that tolerance, consistent with leading practices in GAO's Fraud Risk Framework. (Recommendation 2)
Agency Affected: Department of Justice: Office of the Assistant Attorney General for Administration