Review of Legal Services Corporation's Activities Concerning Program Evaluation and Expansion

HRD-80-103: Published: Aug 28, 1980. Publicly Released: Aug 28, 1980.

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GAO reviewed the Legal Services Corporation's activities concerning program evaluation, expansion of the availability of free legal services to the poor, and the implementation of certain provisions of the Legal Services Corporation Act of 1974, as amended.

The Corporation's evaluations of grantees' activities could be improved if they were made on a regular basis, evaluation reports were prepared in a more timely manner, and evaluations included more extensive contacts with the community served. The Corporation could better assure the best use of grantee resources, if grantees established and implemented priorities and verified client eligibility. The Corporation has improved its procedures for establishing new programs in areas not previously served. These changes have resulted in increased communications between the Corporation and interested parties, in prospective expansion areas, and fewer complaints. The Corporation should ensure that the new procedures are followed not only when it expands its programs to achieve minimum access to legal services in areas not previously served, but also when it expands or establishes additional programs to increase services in areas already being served. The Corporation should closely monitor grantees' use of funds and require that its recently established policy, which provides for limiting funds initially released to new grantees and to grantees who are expanding services until they can show a need for the total amount of the grant, be followed unless there is a demonstrated need for not doing so.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The President of the Legal Services Corporation should expand the evaluation process, pending development of accepted standards for measuring quality of service, to provide for more extensive contacts with individuals and organizations in the community served; including clients, local bar associations, and judges, to obtain additional information to better assess the quality and impact of services provided. He should expand monitoring and evaluation procedures to assure that grantees comply with priority-setting requirements, place a high priority on implementing the program management information system, and ensure that it will enable comparison of grantee services provided with established priorities. The President of the Legal Services Corporation should require grantees to establish procedures for verifying client eligibility, particularly when the applicants' legal needs will require significant program resources. He should ensure that the expansion procedures adopted for achieving minimum access are followed whenever new legal services delivery programs are established and when existing programs are expanded. He should closely monitor the expenditures of funds by grantees to minimize yearend fund carryovers, adjust subsequent year funding of grantees with significant carryovers, and require the use of slope funding for all new or expansion grantees unless the regional office can satisfactorily demonstrate that such funding is not warranted. The President and Board of Directors of the Legal Services Corporation should implement procedures to gain greater assurance that legislative representation activities are in compliance with the letter and spirit of congressionally imposed restrictions. These steps should include requiring all programs to report to the Corporation on a regular basis all of their legislative representation activities and the Corporation's regional offices to regularly review the legislative representation activities of its grantees. The President and the Board of Directors should also revise Corporation regulations to more specifically define the legislative restrictions on grantees' lobbying activities and the types of lobbying activities that are not permissible.

    Agency Affected:


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