Where Are the Required Federal Audits of Refugee and Immigrant Resettlement Agencies?

By Dan Cadman on July 28, 2015

The Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (DOJ OIG) has issued a report on its audit of two grants funded by DOJ's Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) to a Georgia entity called Tapestri, Inc., which describes its mission as "end[ing] violence and oppression in refugee and immigrant communities", according to the report.

Though required by law, audits of immigrant and refugee-related grants are rare.

The OIG tells us that, in 2011 alone, Tapestri received $600,000 in grants from OVW and OVC and, as a consequence, an audit was required under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-133, because that circular constitutes a government-wide mandate, coming as it does from a White House agency. (OMB responds directly to the White House and oversees all fiscal and managerial operations of the executive branch.)

OMB Circular A-133, and its accompanying yearly compliance supplements, lay out specific requirements for fiscal audits of grantees and contractors receiving federal funds across the array of cabinet departments and agencies, such as the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the Department of Health and Human Services, whose Refugee and Entrant program is governed by CFDA 93.566 for the 2015 compliance supplement.

During the year of the awards to Tapestri that was examined, 2011, Circular A-133 guidelines required yearly audits for cumulative grants totaling $500,000 or more. (That threshold has since been raised to $750,000 — see the rule published in the December 26, 2013, Federal Register at Section C, Subpart F, 200.501).

The audit found that Tapestri had significant organizational weaknesses "in the areas of internal controls, award expenditures, reporting, accounting for matching cost contributions, and accomplishment of award objectives." These are serious deficiencies. As a consequence of these weaknesses, Tapestri misused an identifiable total of $4,179 in both programs.

Identifying misuse of a tad over $4,000 is small potatoes in the massive business of federal grant awards. But what the report does not address, yet seems to me ought to have been closely examined, is this business of inability to account for (or perhaps misrepresentation of) claimed matching fund contributions, insofar as they were relevant to the award amounts granted by OVW and OVC.

This is the third time of late that I've spoken to financial issues relating to awards granted to various organizations for sheltering and protection programs of refugees, alien entrants, and sundry migrants (including unaccompanied minors and families who have crossed the border illegally). These programs that receive huge amounts of taxpayer funding (see here and here) — and by huge, I mean billions of dollars.

Yet, with the exception of the DOJ OIG, I find little evidence of audits being undertaken, despite the vast dollar amounts or the clearly articulated OMB requirements. Certainly they are not readily to be found on public websites of the various OIG offices, nor those of the offices of primary responsibility within Homeland Security or Health and Human Services.

How could this be? Why has OMB not chastised the remiss agencies? Why has the Government Accountability Office not singled them out? Is the public not entitled to know who is receiving hundreds of millions in federal dollars, and how they are being spent?