Report 2002-107 Summary - October 2002

Office of Criminal Justice Planning:

Experiences Problems in Program Administration, and Alternative Administrative Structures for the Domestic Violence Program Might Improve Program Delivery

HIGHLIGHTS

The Office of Criminal Justice Planning (OCJP) has not fulfilled all of its responsibilities in administering state and federal grant-supported programs, including the domestic violence program. Specifically, OCJP:

  • Has not adopted guidelines to determine the extent it weighs grant recipients past performance when awarding funds.

  • Does not always provide grant applicants the necessary information or time to challenge its award decisions.

  • Missed opportunities to seek guidance an advisory committee could provide regarding program administration.

  • Has not consistently monitored grant recipients.

  • Spent $2.1 million during the last three years on program evaluations of uneven quality, content, and usefulness.
Our review of the domestic violence programs administered by OCJP and the Department of Health Services (DHS) revealed that:
  • OCJP decided not to correct an inconsistency in its 2001 request for proposals, which resulted in fewer shelters receiving funding.

  • DHS has not established guidelines as to how past performance will be considered when awarding grants.

  • OCJP and DHS award the majority of their domestic violence funds to shelters for the provision of similar services.

  • OCJP's and DHS's activities for awarding grants and providing oversight of recipients sometimes overlap.

RESULTS IN BRIEF

Two state agencies in California administer and allocate funds for domestic violence services. In 1985, the Legislature authorized the Office of Criminal Justice Planning (OCJP) as the state agency responsible for administering a statewide domestic violence program. Through the program, OCJP awards funds to domestic violence shelters throughout California to assist domestic violence victims and to prevent family violence. In 1994, the Legislature enacted the Battered Women Protection Act, which appropriated funds to the Department of Health Services (DHS) to administer a comprehensive shelter-based grant program. Through this shelter-based program, DHS awards funds to provide services to battered women and their children. DHS receives additional funds that are earmarked to provide funding to other domestic violence programs as well, including prevention programs, technical assistance, and services to unserved and underserved populations of the State.

Both OCJP and DHS have some discretion in determining what they fund and establishing funding levels. For its 2001 through 2004 funding cycle, OCJP implemented a competitive process to award its shelter-based program funds. As a result of this process, it did not award grants to 10 shelters that it had previously funded. In response to public criticism, the State provided emergency funding to these 10 shelters at the end of 2001. DHS also uses a competitive funding process, and during its 2000 through 2003 funding cycle, it did not award grants to 6 shelters that it had funded in the past because of their low-scoring applications. Five of these six shelters were funded by the State in late fiscal year 2000-01 using money that was received as the result of a class action settlement. In February 2002, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Government Oversight, and the California Women's Legislative Caucus held hearings regarding these 16 shelters whose funding was discontinued. Shortly thereafter, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee approved an audit of OCJP's and DHS's administration of their respective domestic violence programs and of OCJP's overall administration efforts.

Our review of five programs administered by OCJP, including the domestic violence program and four other programs, found that OCJP has not fulfilled all of its responsibilities in administering state and federal grants. Specifically, OCJP has left itself vulnerable to the perception that its grant award processes are not equitable because it has not adopted guidelines weighing grant recipients' past performance when awarding funds, nor is its review process systematic enough to identify grant recipients with poor past performance. Moreover, OCJP does not always provide unsuccessful grant applicants the necessary information or time to challenge its award decisions, and it has missed opportunities to seek the guidance an advisory committee could provide regarding certain decisions that affect program administration.

In addition, OCJP has not consistently monitored grant recipients' activities, and therefore has not always promptly addressed problems. It has not visited grant recipients as required by its own policies or developed an alternative process to prioritize those grant recipients that it should visit. In many cases when grant recipients have not submitted required reports on time, OCJP has not quickly followed up or has failed to document any informal reminders that it sent concerning the reports. It has also failed to promptly review required reports submitted by grant recipients. In one instance, it did not review grant recipients' audit reports for over a year because its contract with the outside consultant that conducted the reviews lapsed, creating a backlog of more than 700 reports in need of review. Moreover, by eliminating a portion of its audit review that duplicates work being done by another state entity, OCJP could achieve an annual savings of nearly $23,000. When it has identified problems through grant recipient visits or its review of reports, OCJP has not always followed up to ensure the problems are resolved.

We also found problems in other aspects of OCJP's administration. Specifically, during the last three years, OCJP's evaluation branch spent $2.1 million on activities that culminated in evaluations of uneven quality, content, and usefulness. The branch lacks a process that would help it determine what programs would profit most from evaluations, how detailed evaluations should be, what criteria evaluations must satisfy, and, until recently, how to ensure they contain workable recommendations. The branch has been lax in management of its contracts; as a result, it did not include measurable deliverables in one contract and failed to ensure that it received the deliverables contained in others. It also circumvented competitive bidding rules in entering an agreement with a University of California extension school.

Furthermore, OCJP's method for assigning indirect and personnel costs to the various programs it administers may result in some programs paying the administrative costs for others. Its allocation of indirect costs has been inconsistent, and it has not kept adequate records of its allocation decisions to demonstrate that they were appropriate. It has also failed to require its employees to record their activities when working on multiple programs as required by federal grant guidelines.

These weaknesses in OCJP's overall administration reflect the weaknesses we found in its administration of its domestic violence program. However, we also noted one problem specific to its domestic violence program. Because it decided not to correct an inconsistency in its 2001 domestic violence request for proposals, OCJP raised its minimum funding level for shelters, which resulted in fewer shelters receiving funds.

In reviewing DHS's administration of its domestic violence program, we found that, like OCJP, problems with DHS's processes for awarding grants and overseeing grant recipients have hindered its success. It has not established sufficient guidelines concerning weighing past performance when considering grant applications, nor has it adopted a systematic review process to identify grant recipients with poor past performance. Furthermore, DHS has only performed site visits for 3 of its 91 grant recipients and has not considered developing a process to prioritize those visits, even though a state law that took effect in January 2002 requires that DHS visit all grant recipients at least once during the three-year grant cycle. DHS has not quickly followed up with many grant recipients who were late in submitting required reports, and once it receives required progress reports, it often fails to review them in a timely manner, if it reviews them at all.

Despite some differences in their programs, OCJP and DHS award the majority of their domestic violence funds to shelters for the provision of similar services. OCJP operates its $14.7 million shelter-based program under guidelines from both its federal funding sources and state law, which generally limit it to funding 13 specific domestic violence services. Although DHS's $14.3 million shelter-based program does not face the same requirements because it does not receive federal funds and because state law places fewer restrictions on it, it requires that applicants for its shelter-based program demonstrate that they can provide the same 13 services. As a result, shelters eligible for funding from one department are generally also eligible for funding from the other. In fact, the shelters we reviewed appear to be planning to use most of the funds from the two shelter-based programs for similar activities. Through other programs, DHS also provides an additional $3.9 million of domestic violence funding for community planning and violence-prevention activities that OCJP does not fund.

Because of the similarity of their shelter-based programs, OCJP's and DHS's activities for awarding grants and providing oversight of recipients sometimes overlap. For example, although their grant applications require that the shelters submit similar information, DHS and OCJP separately review and score them. Moreover, although OCJP already visits its shelters to assess their activities and to provide technical assistance, DHS plans to perform similar visits because a new legislative mandate requires it do so. Furthermore, while both departments use the same periodic progress report, they require that the shelters report this information for different time periods.

Because OCJP and DHS fund similar activities and areas of their grant application and oversight efforts overlap, we believe that another approach to structuring the State's domestic violence programs could prove more efficient. We present the following as the four alternatives we considered:

  • Increase coordination between the departments.

  • Issue a joint grant application for the departments' shelter-based programs.

  • Combine the two shelter-based programs at one department.

  • Completely consolidate all DHS and OCJP domestic violence programs.

RECOMMENDATIONS

To ensure its application process is fair and impartial, OCJP should create guidelines and criteria to determine when a grant applicant's past performance issues rise to the level for it to consider denying continued funding for that applicant. It should also conduct periodic uniform reviews of all applicants' past performance and clearly state in the rejection letters sent to the applicants the reasons they were denied funding. To improve outreach to its grant recipients and comply with legislation that is soon to take effect, OCJP should create an advisory committee for the domestic violence program that could provide guidance on key program decisions.

We also recommend that OCJP take several actions to improve its oversight of grant recipients. These actions include ensuring prompt site visits of newly funded grant recipients, establishing a process for identifying which grant recipients it should visit first when it conducts monitoring visits, developing written guidelines to determine when and how staff should follow up on late progress reports, ensuring that it reviews audit reports within six months of receipt in order to comply with federal guidelines, and revising its audit report review of municipalities to eliminate duplication of effort with the State Controller's Office. OCJP should also establish written guidelines to address how staff should follow up on problems identified in progress reports or during site visits, and it should require that its monitors review grant recipients' corrective action plans to ensure problems identified during monitoring visits have been appropriately resolved.

To improve its evaluations branch, OCJP should develop a plan for selecting and designing evaluations. OCJP should include measurable deliverables and timelines in its contracts with evaluators and hold evaluators to their contracts. It should also ensure that interagency agreements with university campuses comply with state guidelines regarding competitive bidding.

To ensure its application process is fair and impartial, DHS should also create guidelines and criteria to determine when a grant applicant's past performance issues rise to the level for it to consider denying that applicant funding. It should also conduct periodic uniform reviews of all applicants with regard to past performance. To improve the oversight of its grantees, DHS should ensure that it consistently reviews progress reports submitted by shelters, complies with the state law mandating site visits while establishing a process for prioritizing visits to shelters, develop written guidelines to establish when staff should follow up on late progress reports and how they should document that follow-up, and ensure that staff follow existing guidelines regarding timely follow-up of late audit reports.

To improve the efficiency of the State's domestic violence programs, OCJP and DHS should coordinate the development of their application processes and identify areas common to both where they could share information or agree to request information in a similar format. To eliminate duplicate oversight activities, OCJP and DHS should also consider aligning their reporting periods for progress reports, coordinating their visits to shelters, and establishing procedures for communicating concerns or problems regarding shelters. In addition, OCJP and DHS, along with the Legislature, should consider implementing one of the following alternatives:

  • Continue to coordinate the departments' activities on projects in which both have interests in improving services. In addition, OCJP and DHS should each strive to identify opportunities to focus funding on specific activities. This would include establishing base funding for shelters.

  • Issue a joint application for both departments' shelter-based programs but have each department continue its separate oversight.

  • Combine the shelter-based programs at one department. This alternative would require some changes to state law and funding appropriations because both departments have authorizing legislation establishing their shelter-based programs. The legislation also imposes separate requirements on the funding each receives.

  • Consolidate all domestic violence programs at one department. This alternative would also require legislative and funding appropriation changes.

AGENCY COMMENTS

OCJP agrees with many of our recommendations and will act to implement them. The DHS has carefully considered our recommendations and has recently undertaken a number of activities to address them. Both OCJP and DHS recognize that duplicative, often conflicting requirements result in time lost to serving clients and increased administrative costs and are committed to making every effort to coordinate and consolidate domestic violence program activities to reduce any unnecessary duplication.


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