- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

A grant program by the Justice Department that gives money to state and local agencies to assist in responding to terrorist attacks has been slow to award funds, and local officials were slow to spend the money they received, a report says.
The Justice Department's Office of Inspector General said yesterday an audit found that, as of Jan. 15, more than half of the total funds appropriated under the grant program for equipment from fiscal year 1998 through 2001 $141 million out of $243 million still had not been awarded.
Auditors also found that $65 million in awarded grant funds for equipment were still unspent. They also found that nearly $1 million in equipment purchased with grants was unavailable for use because grantees did not properly distribute the equipment, could not locate it or had been inadequately trained on how to use it.
"These grant funds provide critical equipment to metropolitan fire and emergency services departments to assist them in responding to terrorist attacks and other emergencies," said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine.
"It is imperative that the Department of Justice disburse the funds in a timely manner and that state and local recipients who are the 'first responders' in a crisis use the funds in a timely manner," he said.
The Justice Department's Office of Justice Programs administers the grant program.
The audit recommended that the department establish controls to ensure that states submit applications for future funds as expeditiously as possible and that grantees are held accountable for using the funds as quickly as possible.
It also said the department should ensure that grantees properly distribute and maintain specialized equipment, as well as obtain adequate training to operate it; that it remedy $870,899 in contested costs for equipment that was unavailable or unusable; and that it ensure that grantees conduct or participate in exercises to maintain their state of readiness.
The audit also said the department needed to develop performance standards in keeping with the intent of the Government Performance Results Act for evaluating whether grant support is improving grantees' capability to respond to terrorist incidents.
The domestic preparedness grant programs were initiated pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which charged the attorney general with working in consultation with the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide grants for specialized training and equipment to metropolitan fire and emergency service departments.
In April 1998, Attorney General Janet Reno delegated authority to the Office of Justice Programs to administer $12 million in fiscal year 1998 funds for grants to local responders. Through Jan. 15, 2002, the ODP has awarded grants totaling about $149 million $101.7 million to 257 grantees for equipment and $47.1 million to 29 grantees for training.

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