Refugee Program:

Initial Reception and Placement of New Arrivals Should Be Improved

NSIAD-86-69: Published: Apr 7, 1986. Publicly Released: Apr 7, 1986.

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GAO reviewed the Department of State's initial refugee reception and placement program to assess: (1) the management of the refugee resettlement program; (2) the distribution and use of grant funds; and (3) the extent to which grant funds have helped refugees move toward self-sufficiency.

GAO noted that State awards per capita grants to voluntary agencies to provide refugees with core services such as food, shelter, clothing, and employment assistance during their first 90 days in the United States. GAO found that: (1) 94.3 percent of the refugees who arrived in the United States in April 1984 received food, clothing, and shelter and at least 84.1 percent received employment-related services; (2) refugees that needed vocational or academic training and those who were not aggressively seeking employment were more difficult to place in jobs; (3) State does not use measurement factors such as employment/welfare dependency rates to evaluate agency performance; (4) voluntary agencies participating in the refugee placement program are not required to submit audited financial statements; (5) State places few restrictions on the agencies' use of grant funds and, therefore, financial reports do not disclose the total costs incurred in resettling refugees or provide an adequate basis for evaluating the appropriateness of program expenditures; and (6) since State exercises minimal control and accountability over the agencies' use or refugee reception and placement funds, it can neither determine if the federal share of resettlement costs is sufficient nor substantiate the need for additional per capita grants.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State, under the new agreements, clarified and prioritized program goals. The private agencies, while not responsible for job placement, are required to develop individual refugee resettlement plans, including an assessment of employability. At the end of 90 days, refugees are expected to be employed or referred to other service providers.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should require the Director, Bureau for Refugee Programs, to further clarify the reception and placement program goals in terms of self-sufficiency expectations. With employment as a primary route to refugee self-sufficiency, such expectations should include an identification of which newly arrived refugees are employable and when employment can be expected. In clarifying the goals, the Director needs to establish criteria which program managers and participants can use to make these determinations. The criteria should be such that, if the refugee is determined unemployable upon arriving in the United States, another determination could be made as to when and what would be needed to help the refugee become employable. In this connection, the Director should keep the appropriate committees informed on, and seek their support of, the Bureau's progress in the clarification and establishment of these program goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State, as part of its revised agreement with voluntary agencies, issued to each such agency written guidelines for achieving program goals and the placement of refugees in jobs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should require the Director, Bureau for Refugee Programs, to establish and distribute to program participants guidelines for achieving program goals and more effectively placing employable refugees in jobs and reducing their dependence on public assistance.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Under the new agreement, State requires each voluntary agency to report on the employment status of selected refugees 6 months after arrival. State can use that information to adjust the number of refugees which any one agency may serve.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should require the Director, Bureau of Refugee Programs, to establish reasonable and measurable performance standards and apply them in maintaining refugee program oversight and managing refugee reception and placement.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Each of the items have been considered by the Bureau and addressed under the new cooperative agreement. New reporting requirements, including total resettlement costs, have been instituted, as well as adherence to applicable OMB circulars, restrictions on the use of funds, and audit requirements.

    Recommendation: To improve the level of accountability and control needed to adequately oversee the refugee program, the Secretary of State should require the Director, Bureau of Refugee Programs, to consider the need to: (1) require voluntary agencies to submit program and financial reports containing pertinent information needed for effective management oversight; (2) require voluntary agencies to report total costs of refugee resettlement; (3) adhere to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circulars governing reasonableness and allowability of costs; (4) impose reasonable restrictions on the use of reception and placement funds; and (5) ensure that voluntary agencies adhere to OMB audit requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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