Inspector General for the Department of Justice Michael Horowitz
Inspector General for the Department of Justice Michael Horowitz (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi / NLJ)

The U.S. Department of Justice can make progress on one of its longtime challenges—stopping mismanagement and misuse of federal grant programs—by making more information publicly available, the agency’s inspector general told Congress today.

At a hearing before a House subcommittee, Michael Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general, said grant recipients are already required to keep information internally on the receipt of federal dollars. Congress, he said, should consider giving DOJ oversight of that data and making that information publicly available on websites such as USAspending.gov.

“It gives multiple eyes on the grants,” Horowitz told the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism, homeland security and investigations. “We are more likely to get whistleblower conduct where there is misconduct going on.”

Horowitz’s office has issued several reports that show systemic problems in DOJ grant programs. The department has awarded $17 billion in grants over the past five years to thousands of governmental and nongovernmental recipients.

Although DOJ has made steps to improve management of grant programs, Horowitz said, the agency still needs to reduce duplication and improve coordination among its three grant-making components: the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the Office on Violence Against Women and the Office of Justice Programs.

To highlight the need for better oversight, Horowitz testified about two $150,000 grants in 2007 to law enforcement agencies for drones. One agency wanted to test the use of drones in high-risk situations in heavily populated areas; the other wanted to use a drone for antimethamphetamine initiatives.

The Justice Department, however, did not require the two agencies to demonstrate they could receive Federal Aviation Administration approval to operate the drones, or otherwise show that drone use was legal in their jurisdiction. One grant recipient received approval from the FAA to operate within a testing environment, but the other grant recipient never received any type of FAA approval.

In addition, Horowitz said, the department did not require award recipients share the results of their programs with DOJ. “As of 2013, neither law enforcement agency had used their [drones] successfully in operation,” Horowitz said.

Contact Todd Ruger at truger@alm.com.