- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2006

A Justice Department grant program established by Congress to help state and local law-enforcement agencies stem the production, distribution and use of methamphetamine, the most prevalent manufactured drug illegally produced in the United States, has “significant deficiencies,” a report says.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, in a report released yesterday, questioned the Office of Community Oriented Policing Service’s (COPS) oversight of the program, which has received more than $200 million in grants in the past eight years, saying there were problems in how the grants were monitored overall and how individual recipients administered the money.

“We concluded that the COPS office needs to address the serious problems we found in its administration of this important grant program to combat the widespread illegal use of methamphetamine in the United States,” Mr. Fine said.

Between fiscal 1998 and fiscal 2005, Congress appropriated $385.6 million for a methamphetamine initiative, of which the COPS office transferred nearly $125 million to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for the removal and disposal of hazardous materials from clandestine methamphetamine laboratories.

Mr. Fine said $46.6 million went to the Office of Justice Programs for several methamphetamine grants it administered on behalf of the COPS office and the remaining $214 million was distributed to state and local entities through the grant process under guidelines established by Congress.

“The [Office of Inspector General] audit found weaknesses in the COPS office’s management and administrative controls related to the methamphetamine initiative,” he said. “Specifically, we identified a lack of coordination between officials in the COPS office, weaknesses in the database that COPS uses to manage and track grants, and insufficient and inconsistent monitoring of grantees.”

Mr. Fine said only 15 of 179 methamphetamine initiative grantees received on-site visits by COPS officials despite a congressional mandate that they were to “scrutinize the proposed projects, consult with the DEA and award the funds if warranted.” He said the COPS office had not consulted with the DEA about grants before awarding the funds.

In addition, he said, although some states with high numbers of reported methamphetamine incidents received significant funds through the methamphetamine initiative, other states with similar levels of reported methamphetamine incidents have not received similar levels of funding.

The report contained 17 recommendations focusing on specific steps the COPS office should take to improve its management and administration of the methamphetamine initiative, including implementing procedures for the administration and oversight of entities receiving funding as well as evaluating the effectiveness of the grant program as a whole.

Officials at COPS agreed with the recommendations, the report said, and have taken steps to correct the problems.

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