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Hearing Examines Systemic Oversight Failures at CNCS
Foxx: To excuse this kind of abuse and fraud is unconscionable

The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, chaired by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), held an oversight hearing today to discuss failures and inefficiencies that have led to the mishandling of taxpayer dollars by grantees funded by the Center for National and Community Service (CNCS).

“One of the most important responsibilities given to Congress by the Constitution is oversight of the federal bureaucracy,” Chairman Guthrie said. “It is our duty to hold the executive branch accountable both for the way it administers the law and how it spends taxpayer dollars. That’s why we are here today — to hold the Corporation for National and Community Service accountable.”

Members raised a number of concerns throughout the hearing, including substantial and illegal misuses of taxpayer dollars by CNCS grantees and failures to conduct required criminal background checks on program participants and staff. In response to remarks by the Democrat minority questioning the legitimacy and purpose of the hearing, Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said:

This kind of fraud and abuse is not a good use of hardworking taxpayer dollars … We shouldn’t waste a dime of hardworking taxpayer dollars, and to excuse this kind of abuse and fraud is unconscionable. It’s just unconscionable.

Allison Bawden — acting director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) — explained the findings of a recent GAO report examining grant monitoring at CNCS.

“[GAO] found that CNCS’s current process for grant monitoring is not fully aligned with federal internal controls for identifying, analyzing, and responding to risks,” Bawden said. As she explained, GAO found the corporation’s process for assessing risks omits some grants, its monitoring does not prioritize the highest-risk grants, and its monitoring of some identified risks is limited.

CNCS Inspector General Deborah Jeffrey also discussed grant management problems, noting the development and implementation of risk-based grant management is “the most critical challenge confronting the corporation” and “the single most important recommendation of [her office] that CNCS has not yet implemented.”

“Instead, CNCS continues to operate today under most of the same monitoring protocols that my office has found to be poorly designed and implemented,” she said. Jeffrey continued that the corporation’s current monitoring process has failed to detect fraud and illegal activity among participants.

She also raised concerns about widespread inadequacies in how grantees perform “required criminal history checks intended to exclude murderers and sex offenders from national service.” Jeffrey stated between “22 and 41 percent of grantees do not conduct thorough and timely criminal history checks, potentially jeopardizing the safety of the communities served by CNCS program.” She added that just last week her office learned “a volunteer who had been convicted of three sex offenses served for more than one year in the Senior Companion Program, which works with the elderly in their homes.”

Unfortunately, many of the concerns raised during the hearing were not shared by Democrat members of the committee.

“My Democratic colleagues said that this hearing was about a previous single incident of wrongdoing. In fact, this hearing is about the corporation’s record over a number of years as an inability to protect taxpayer dollars and monitor those dollars in a risk-based fashion,” Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) said at the hearing’s conclusion. “We will continue to hold the agency accountable for how it spends taxpayer dollars.”

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