USD 4.7 billion The technological problems of the grant program need justice groups

Failure of a new system used to manage the U.S. Department of Justice’s $ 4.7 billion grant program is causing delays in funding programs from victim services to criminal justice research, say more than a dozen employees and beneficiaries.

Problems with the system, known as “JustGrants”, are the subject of complaints to Congress and internal government guards, according to documents seen by Reuters.

Data obtained from a request for public records show that the system has generated more than 38,000 requests for technical support from its launch in October to 10 May.

On May 6, the Director General of the Ministry of Justice issued a warning saying that the problems hindered the ability of award recipients to achieve program objectives.

Critics say the problems could hinder President Joe Biden’s efforts to persuade Congress to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for additional Justice Department subsidy programs, including $ 300 million to help police hire more police officers.

Grant recipients have had difficulty submitting applications, delays in accessing funds and problems uploading financial reports, according to interviews with more than a dozen department staff and grant recipients who were given anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

USD 4.7 billion  The technological delays of grant programs are fighting for justice groups

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A nonprofit organization in Washington DC that provides services to victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking and domestic violence was unable to help new clients for several months due to delays.

“The grant was to start on October 1, and it did not start until May,” said a non-profit organization employee. “We had certain customers that we could not serve because we did not have the financing.”

A research institution was forced to delay a project aimed at helping police investigate cyberstalking by about four months when its grant data disappeared from the system following a shutdown of maintenance.

“Everything was gone, including the new price,” said someone who knows the problem.

In a May 4 letter to Senator Mark Warner, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2830 called for an investigation.

The union also calls on the Justice Department to scrap JustGrants.

“Grant managers tell me that fundraisers have told them that they will never apply for another grant because of this,” said Elaine Snyder, the union’s acting chief executive.

Rachel Cohen, a spokeswoman for Warner, said the senator’s office was investigating the union complaint.

Kristen Mahoney, acting director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, said her staff had worked to correct bugs.

“It’s not helpful to bash JustGrants – we have to own it,” she said in an interview. “We have to make it what it’s supposed to do.”

Mahoney said the department was processing applications and that she was not aware of issues with grants not getting their money.

“I fully acknowledge that it was not smooth sailing,” she said. At the same time, she added: “We hand out scholarships. People get paid. ”

The Department of Justice provides billions of dollars in federal funding to state and local governments as well as nonprofits and universities for initiatives ranging from body cameras to police officers to transitional housing for survivors in the home.

Grant winners must submit regular progress and financial reports to the Department of Justice.

JustGrants was built by General Dynamics Corp. under a $ 115 million ceiling contract and was intended to consolidate the grants in one place and be compatible with a new government-wide payment system. To date, the Department of Justice has spent just over $ 70 million on it.

A spokesman for General Dynamics Information Technology said JustGrants’ development approach was “prescribed and led by the DOJ.”

In a statement, the Justice Department said JustGrants was built using a flexible development style where systems are created piece by piece and evolve based on user feedback.

“The development strategy for JustGrants was not to have an end-to-end system that was fully operational by October 2020,” the department said. “The plan has been to bring additional features online as that functionality was needed.”

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Scott Malone and Howard Goller)

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