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Project on Government Oversight




Appropriating Justice

July 17, 2008 


From POGO's blog:

In our recent report, Getting Byrned by Justice: Favoritism in the Byrne Discretionary Grant Program, we found that the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) at the Department of Justice (DOJ) awarded 13 of the FY2007 Byrne Discretionary grants without evaluating them through the peer review process.  At least two of those grants appear to involve conflicts of interest between the grantee and DOJ appointees in the offices awarding those grants.

Despite DOJ's reluctance to address our findings, we had hoped that the agency would at least respond to Senator Claire McCaskill's (D-MO) May 13, 2008, letter questioning the manner in which the FY2007 Byrne Discretionary grants were awarded.  Their silence thus far has been deafening.

The special treatment received by those 13 grantees is alarming in itself.  However, there is one question that our report was not able to answer: Were the grants that were evaluated through the peer review process awarded in adherence to their scores?  As we wrote in the report, since "several OJJDP [Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention] grants were awarded counter to peer-review recommendations, doubt is cast on the merit of even the peer reviewed BJA grants."

While DOJ may be stonewalling Congress, the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), is taking measures to ensure that DOJ will no longer have the "discretion" to hand out grants to their favorite recipients counter to peer-review recommendations.  Rep. Obey has offered an amendment requiring that:

The Attorney General, and the head of any entity in the Department of Justice, in making grants in the exercise of authority under any discretionary grant program shall--

(1) conduct a peer review process, and
(2) adhere strictly to the peer review rankings made.

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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