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California State Auditor Logo COMMITMENT • INTEGRITY • LEADERSHIP  

Department of Rehabilitation
Its Inadequate Guidance and Oversight of the Grant Process Led to Inconsistencies and Perceived Bias in Its Evaluations and Awards of Some Grants

Report Number: 2017-129

Figure 1

The title of Figure 1 is Summary of Rehabilitation’s Intended Grant Process and Responsible Parties.

Figure 1 is a summary flow chart that describes Rehabilitation’s intended grant process and identifies the responsible parties for each step of the process. The chart divides the grant process into three steps—soliciting applications, evaluating applications and awarding the grant, and evaluating appeals.

Under the soliciting applications step, program management and staff first consider holding a kickoff meeting to start the grant process and educate participants on the process and their roles. Then, they obtain stakeholder feedback before and during RFA development. Program management and staff also include in the RFA information on how to apply, how Rehabilitation will select grantees, and how applicants can appeal the grant award decision. Finally, they post the RFA to the website.

The evaluation of applications and awarding the grant step begins when program management and staff establish an evaluation panel by issuing a solicitation, reviewing candidate resumes, providing training on conflict-of-interest and confidentiality procedures, and, finally, selecting qualified evaluators. The technical review team trains the evaluators on the purpose of the grant program, regulatory requirements of the grant, and how to evaluate applications. The administrative review team ensures that grant applicants submitted complete applications by the deadline. The technical review team also answers evaluators’ questions and verifies that evaluators followed all evaluation instructions. At the end of the process, the director and chief deputy director approve and issue the notice of intent to award.

During the evaluation of appeals, the chief deputy director acknowledges receipt of any appeals, appoints a grant review committee, as required by regulations, and notifies potentially affected applicants of the appeal. The grant review committee evaluates each appeal and relevant records, and, per regulations, notifies the appellant in writing of the decision within 30 days from the date of the request. Lastly, the chief deputy director notifies affected applicants of the appeal decision.

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Figure 2

The title of Figure 2 is Rehabilitation Convened New Evaluation Panels to Rescore Applications for the Systems Change Grant and Deviated From Its Intended Grant Process.

Figure 2 is a flow chart which describes how Rehabilitation convened new evaluation panels to rescore applications for the Systems Change grant and deviated from its intended grant process. On the left, the chart provides a summary of the intended grant process, as described in the grant manual, and on the right, the chart shows the process Rehabilitation followed for the Systems Change grant. The summary describes several steps of the grant process, including developing and issuing the RFA, issuing a solicitation for evaluators, providing them conflict of interest training, selecting evaluators, providing training to evaluators on the grant process, and evaluators reviewing and scoring applications. It also identifies that a technical review team verifies evaluators followed instructions in evaluating applications, and summarizes the evaluation process and recommended award to the director and chief deputy for approval. At this point, the director and chief deputy either approve the recommended award or deny the recommended award. If they approve it, Rehabilitation issues a notice of intent to award, but if they deny the recommended award, Rehabilitation starts the grant process over.

The process for the Systems Change grant begins with Rehabilitation developing and issuing an RFA. Rehabilitation then selected three evaluators for the first evaluation panel, without issuing a solicitation or providing evaluators with conflict-of-interest training. Rehabilitation also did not provide adequate training to evaluators on the grant process. On February 24, 2017, evaluators completed their evaluation, and scored CFILC the highest. Program management noted that evaluators’ scores and comments were identical and that evaluators gave SCRS scores of 0 in some categories. As a result, Rehabilitation had evaluators rescore the applications.

Evaluators submitted their second evaluation on March 3, 2017, and scored SCRS the highest. Program management noted that evaluators had scores with more than a 3-point difference between the highest and lowest scores for four scoring components. As a result, Rehabilitation had evaluators rescore the applications a third time.

On March 10, 2017, evaluators submitted their third evaluation and scored SCRS the highest again. Program management set aside these scores, noting that they had changed dramatically between the second and third round of scoring, and selected new evaluators.

For its second evaluation panel, Rehabilitation selected two evaluators, without issuing a solicitation or providing conflict-of-interest training. Again, Rehabilitation did not provide adequate training on the grant process. On April 11, 2017, evaluators submitted their evaluation and scored CFILC the highest, so Rehabilitation issued a notice of intent to award the grant to CFILC. SCRS appealed the grant award decision, and Rehabilitation appointed a review committee to review the appeal. The review committee found discrepancies in the scoring material that invalidated the scoring process for both evaluation panels. It recommended that Rehabilitation form a new evaluation panel to rescore applications.

Rehabilitation selected three evaluators without issuing a solicitation or providing conflict of interest training. Again, Rehabilitation did not provide adequate training on the grant process. On November 13, 2017, evaluators conducted their evaluation, scored CFILC the highest, and Rehabilitation issued the notice of intent to award the grant to CFILC. Again, SCRS appealed the grant award decision, and Rehabilitation selected a review committee to review the appeal. The review committee upheld the decision to award the grant to CFILC.

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