- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 20, 2002

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued 14,000 grants and grant extensions to nonprofit groups totaling more than $2 billion since 1993, but only a fraction were audited, according to government documents.
"It's a disaster," said Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, which sued the agency and forced the release of internal documents.
Fewer than 300 of the grants were audited, and an "overwhelming majority did not receive any kind of internal or external panel review, were not widely advertised or competed for," Mr. Levin said. "The government does not have a handle on what is going on here; it is a massive boondoggle."
The EPA has been forthcoming with grant information since the legal foundation filed suit last October, Mr. Levin said.
"There is no question that there is a lack of oversight and standards in this program," Mr. Levin said.
The EPA's inspector general conducted 36 financial reports of grant recipients since 1993 and 230 audits were conducted by certified public accountants outside of the agency.
An EPA spokesman said nonprofit organizations can receive grants from more than one government agency, so the role of auditing does not always fall under EPA responsibility.
"A lot of environmental grants are small items compared to other agencies. Another agency might not look at our small [grants] if they have bigger [grants] to look at," spokesman Joe Martyak said.
The new administration is making a concerted effort to improve the grant-making and auditing process, and is working to increase competition that is not mandated by law, Mr. Martyak said.
According to the EPA's mission statement, its goal is "to protect human health and to safeguard the natural environment air, water and land upon which life depends. For 30 years, EPA has been working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people."
The list of grants reviewed does not contain dollar amounts or purpose. However, Mr. Levin said many of the organizations listed are ideological or advocacy groups.
In its initial review, the legal foundation found questionable grants were issued for bat-conservation programs, a wild rice conference, and to the Capital University Center to create a solid waste board game called "The Can Man Game."
More than $300,000 was awarded to golf courses to discourage the use of pesticides. Mr. Martyak said that grant may "sound bizarre" but is valuable to the environment.
The Associated Press conducted an analysis of the EPA grants and extensions and reported Feb. 12 that six of the top 10 recipients were not environmental groups or researchers, but senior citizens organizations. Tens of millions of dollars was used to hire seniors as temporary workers for environmental projects, and 1,800 are still employed.
The AARP Foundation was the top grant recipient with $99 million, the National Older Worker Career Center has received $90 million, National Senior Citizens Education and Research Center got $74 million, National Caucus and Center on Black Aged got $72 million and the National Association of Hispanic Elderly received $43.9 million.
Mr. Martyak said Congress mandated the senior citizens program in 1984, and the additional manpower helps the agency.
More than a third of the grants are mandated by Congress, Mr. Martyak said. In 2001, $130 million out of $350 million in grants were earmarked by members of Congress.
Mr. Martyak offered that one mandated grant to the North American Development Bank for $41 million in 2000 jumped to $84 million in 2001.


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