© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) attends the second day of the confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Connie Barrett before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S. October 13, 2020. Drew Angerer/ Paul via Reuters
Written by Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior Republican senator has called for an investigation into a new grant management program at the Department of Justice after Reuters reported https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-47-billion-grant-programs- tech-woes-take-toll-Justice-groups-2021-07-12 Technology gaps in the system have delayed funding programs from police departments to victim service providers.
Senate Judiciary Committee Classification Member Charles Grassley asked in a letter Wednesday that Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz launch a formal investigation into the department’s rollout of the new program, known as JustGrants, which runs a $4.7 billion grant program.
In his letter, Grassley cited a variety of reports from Horowitz’s office that documented problems with JustGrants, including a warning on May 6 in which Horowitz said problems with JustGrants impeded even his employees’ ability to access vital information needed to oversee grants to Root. Waste, fraud or abuse.
The letter also cited a Reuters article on July 12 about how widespread technological vulnerabilities have been in the system since its October 2020 launch, pushing more than 38,000 help desk requests through May 10 and delaying many grant recipients from receiving vital funding.
“The Reuters article, as with the OIG reports cited in this letter, describes the clear negative consequences of failure in the JustGrants system,” Grassley wrote.
“I am asking your office to investigate the move to JustGrants. The circumstances surrounding the program raise many troubling questions.”
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice did not immediately comment, noting that the request came after business hours.
A spokesman for Horowitz’s office was not immediately available.
In previous statements to Reuters, management acknowledged that the system had faced challenges, but said staff were trying to patch the loopholes and worked closely with grant winners to help them.
Reuters interviewed more than two dozen department employees and grant recipients for its report, all of whom described similar frustrations with the system.
JustGrants was built by General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE:) under a contract worth a maximum of $115 million and was intended to consolidate grants in one location and be compatible with a new government-wide payment system. So far, the Department of Justice has spent just over $70 million on it.
Management told Reuters in July that JustGrants was built using an agile development approach, in which systems are built piece by piece and evolve based on user feedback.
“JustGrants’ development strategy was not a fully operational comprehensive system in October 2020,” the ministry said.
Grassley, in his letter to Horowitz, raised concerns about this approach and asked the inspector general to investigate whether management had followed all contract-making regulations and carefully monitored the company’s performance.
Grassley also said he wanted to know “the full range of programs that are or are currently affected by the awardees’ inability to access their awards.”
A General Dynamics spokesperson could not immediately be reached, but in an earlier statement the company told Reuters it was committed to developing a “smooth and easy-to-use” system.
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