U.S. Attorneys:

Controls Over Grant-Related Activities Should Be Enhanced

GAO-03-733: Published: Jun 10, 2003. Publicly Released: Jun 10, 2003.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Eileen R. Larence
(202) 512-4636
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Ninety-three U.S. Attorneys serve 94 judicial districts (the same U.S. Attorney serves the District of Guam and the District of the Northern Mariana Islands) under the direction of the Attorney General. Among other things, the Attorney General expects U.S. Attorneys to lead or be involved with the community in preventing and controlling crime including efforts to secure Department of Justice (DOJ) grant funds and work with grantees. This report provides information about the guidance U.S. Attorneys are given in carrying out their responsibilities with regard to DOJ grants. It makes recommendations to assess compliance with guidance and to reduce the potential for conflicts of interest.

U.S. Attorneys' grant activities are guided by legal and ethical considerations. General guidelines established by the Attorney General in 1994 and revised in 2001 outline how U.S. Attorneys and their staff can be involved in their community's crime prevention and control efforts, including DOJ grant activities. Last year, DOJ issued guidance in response to U.S. Attorneys' questions about their role in relation to two DOJ grant programs--Project Safe Neighborhoods and Weed and Seed. In addition, through its Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys (EOUSA), DOJ provided training on ethical considerations in dealing with grant applicants and grantees under both grant programs. Although EOUSA has an evaluation program to assess and oversee the overall operations of each U.S. Attorney's Office, the evaluations are not designed to assess whether U.S. Attorneys and their staffs are following the recently established guidelines. Without a mechanism to make this assessment, EOUSA does not have assurance that DOJ guidance is adequately understood, has reached all those who are covered by it, and is correctly applied. In addition, federal regulations and procedures call for systematic financial disclosure reporting to facilitate the review of possible conflicts of interest and ensure the efficient and honest operation of the government. However, while GAO did not identify any incidences of conflicts of interest, certain individuals--staff in U.S. Attorneys Offices that work with grantees and nonfederal members of committees that are appointed by each U.S. Attorney to, among other things, assess the merits of grant proposals--are not required to disclose whether they are free from actual or apparent conflicts of interest. Based on the merits of GAO's work, DOJ officials stated that they would issue a directive to require members of these committees to sign a self-certified conflict of interest statement that is to be held on file subject to DOJ grant monitoring.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should instruct the Director of EOUSA and U.S. Attorneys to take steps to further mitigate the risk associated with U.S. Attorneys Offices' involvement in the grant components of the PSN and Weed and Seed Programs. Specifically, EOUSA and U.S. Attorneys should establish a mechanism to assess and oversee compliance with recently issued guidelines pertaining to the grant activities of U.S. Attorneys Offices and ensure that the guidelines are working as intended.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In August 2003, in response to our recommendation, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys stated that it would require (1) staff involved in grant-related matters to certify that they are free of conflicts of interest and (2) PSN selection committees to certify that they are free of conflicts of interest. In July 2007, USAEO demonstrated that it has established various training programs regarding compliance with its guideline for grant activities. Additionally, USAEO has disseminated forms to Ethics Advisors in 93 offices in direct response to the GAO recommendations. The Ethics Advisors are responsible for ensuring that the forms are completed by all personnel working on Project Safe Neighborhood and Weed and Seed grant programs. The forms (GCO-1, 2, 3) require individuals taking action with regard to PSN and/or Weed and Seed grant applications to certify they are free from conflicts of interest. In addition, USAEO has ensured that there is supervisory review of these forms.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should instruct the Director of EOUSA and U.S. Attorneys to take steps to further mitigate the risk associated with U.S. Attorneys Offices' involvement in the grant components of the PSN and Weed and Seed Programs. Specifically, EOUSA and U.S. Attorneys should require that U.S. Attorneys' staffs who work with community organizations on grant-related matters be required to file financial disclosure reports certifying that they are free from conflicts of interest.

    Agency Affected: Department of Justice

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In June 2006, in response to our recommendation, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys reported that it had (1) included grant-related ethics issues in training for U.S. Attorneys Ethics Advisors; (2) conducted mandatory annual training for all U.S. Attorneys' staff involved with the PSN and Weed and Seed grant programs. In July 2007, USAEO demonstrated that it has disseminated forms to Ethics Advisors in 93 offices in direct response to the GAO recommendations. Ethics Advisors are responsible for ensuring that the forms are completed by all personnel working on Project Safe Neighborhood and Weed and Seed grant programs. The forms (GCO-1,2,3) require individuals involved with Project Safe Neighborhood and/or Weed and Seed grant applications to certify they are free from financial conflicts of interest. In addition, USAEO has ensured that there is supervisory review of these forms.

    Mar 26, 2014

    Jan 13, 2014

    Dec 9, 2013

    Dec 6, 2013

    Nov 20, 2013

    Oct 29, 2013

    Sep 25, 2013

    Sep 12, 2013

    Sep 10, 2013

    Jul 31, 2013

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here