Community Services Block Grant Program:

HHS Needs to Improve Monitoring of State Grantees

GAO-06-373R: Published: Feb 7, 2006. Publicly Released: Feb 7, 2006.

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The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has asked GAO to review the administration of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program. As part of this review, we are examining the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) efforts to monitor states' use of CSBG funds. Specifically, we have been reviewing efforts undertaken by HHS's Office of Community Services (OCS), which has primary responsibility for administering the CSBG program.

Specifically, we found that OCS staff that conduct monitoring visits told us they lacked the full range of necessary skills to perform these visits, and procedures are not in place to ensure that monitoring teams collectively have requisite skills. Specifically, CSBG staff told us they lacked the expertise needed to assess the financial operations of state CSBG programs--a key component of the CSBG monitoring process. OCS did not issue mandatory reports on monitoring results to any of the six states it visited during fiscal years 2003 and 2004. OCS officials informed us that they intend to issue reports for fiscal year 2005 visits. However, 6 months after completing these visits, OCS has yet to issue a final report to any state. Although OCS monitoring procedures direct staff to write reports after visits and send draft reports on their findings to state agencies for review and comment before final issuance, the procedures do not include instructions with regard to specific time frames for completing these steps. OCS cannot locate key documents pertaining to its monitoring visits of states conducted in 2003 and 2004. Although OCS officials stated that program files should include documentation of its monitoring visits, we found that OCS's file management policies do not include directions on retaining these monitoring documents. Additionally, officials told us that staff responsible for carrying out monitoring activities had retired and their files could not be located. OCS's most recent CSBG report to Congress, which covers fiscal years 2000 to 2003, did not include information on the results of its state evaluations, as required by statute. In its previous report to Congress, which covered fiscal year 1999, OCS provided information on these results and acknowledged that it is statutorily obligated to do so. Additionally, OCS has not been timely in issuing these reports and has not submitted them annually to Congress, as required. For example, OCS issued a consolidated report for fiscal years 2000 to 2003 in December 2005. Officials in OCS and the Administration for Children and Families' (ACF) Office of Legislative Affairs and Budget said that the report was issued just recently because of time lags in receiving data from states and the length of the agency's internal review process.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its August 2009 report for which it audited the Office of Community Services (OCS) to determine whether OCS had implemented GAO's recommendations for the CSBG program, the HHS OIG found that OCS had established written policies and procedures for maintaining documentation on monitoring visits. Specifically, OCS has implemented procedures for maintaining hardcopy and electronic documentation for the nine states that it had visited since GAO released its report. OCS officials stated that they also have contracted with record management specialists and implemented a system that improved OCS's ability to account for all official monitoring documentation.

    Recommendation: In order to ensure that OCS has the internal controls to fulfill its CSBG monitoring responsibilities, HHS's Assistant Secretary for Children and Families should instruct the director of OCS to establish formal written policies and procedures for maintaining and retaining documentation of monitoring visits.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its August 2009 report for which it audited the Office of Community Services (OCS) to determine whether OCS had implemented GAO's recommendations for the CSBG program, the HHS OIG found that OCS had written established policies and procedures for ensuring the timely completion of monitoring reports to states. Specifically, OCS had developed procedures for ensuring that the timeframe from the beginning of the monitoring process until the issuance of the final report was approximately 180 days. In addition, the state assessment team now develops detailed work plans for each state assessment, including internal deadlines for the state provide information and a response to the draft report.

    Recommendation: In order to ensure that OCS has the internal controls to fulfill its CSBG monitoring responsibilities, HHS's Assistant Secretary for Children and Families should instruct the director of OCS to establish formal written policies and procedures for ensuring the timely completion of monitoring reports to states.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its August 2009 report for which it audited the Office of Community Services (OCS) to determine whether OCS had implemented GAO's recommendations for the CSBG program, the HHS OIG found that OCS established written policies and procedures for ensuring that teams conducting monitoring visit include staff with the requisite skills. In addition, OCS stated that it had created a financial operations team and recruited both federal and contract staff with financial analysis and monitoring skills needed to serve the team. OCS also informed the IG that it had awarded a financial monitoring contract to obtain staff possessing requisite skills to assist in conducting state assessment.

    Recommendation: In order to ensure that OCS has the internal controls to fulfill its CSBG monitoring responsibilities, HHS's Assistant Secretary for Children and Families should instruct the director of OCS to establish formal written policies and procedures for ensuring that teams conducting monitoring visits include staff with requisite skills.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its August 2009 report for which it audited the Office of Community Services (OCS) to determine whether OCS had implemented GAO's recommendations for the CSBG program, the HHS OIG found that OCS had established written policies and procedures for ensuring the timely issuance of report to Congress. Since GAO's review, OCS has issued three annual reports to Congress through a process managed by the Administration for Children and Families' Office of Legislative Affairs and Budget and the HHS Office of the Secretary.

    Recommendation: In order to ensure that OCS has the internal controls to fulfill its CSBG monitoring responsibilities, HHS's Assistant Secretary for Children and Families should instruct the director of OCS to establish formal written policies and procedures for ensuring the timely issuance of annual reports to Congress.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Administration for Children and Families

 

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