House Committee, ABC Nightline, to Discuss OJJDP Grants

The House Committee on Government Oversight, headed by good-government top cop Henry Waxman, will hold a hearing tomorrow morning to discuss the grantmaking process at the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The hearing follows, and may have been prompted by, the top-notch reporting of Youth Today editor Patrick Boyle, who deserves a great deal of credit for uncovering this scandal and bringing it to Waxman’s attention. As I wrote in March, Boyle’s articles

exposed rampant cronyism on the part of J. Robert Flores, a Bush appointee who has headed the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, a Justice Department agency, since 2002. Last spring, Boyle reported, the OJJDP posted a request for proposals that was surprisingly broad and that made a generous amount of money available to prospective grantees. “After years of seeing almost all of its discretionary funds eaten up by congressional earmarks, the agency now had millions of dollars to award through competitive bidding, thanks to the slashing of nearly all earmarks in fiscal 2007,” Boyle wrote.

Juvenile justice organizations flocked, but their enthusiasm was misplaced. “A dozen organizations won grants without competitive bidding,” Boyle noted. The scoring system to assess bids for competitive grants was problematic (managed by agency staff, lacking in peer review, rushed), and anyway, it was disregarded. None of the six top-scoring organizations were awarded grants; twenty-one bids that scored 90 or higher (out of 100) were similarly denied. Meanwhile, Flores handed the bulk of the cash to lower-scoring organizations he deemed his favorites.

The National Juvenile Defender Center brings word that Youth Today will be broadcasting the hearing live at its website. (For those who want to read more and view the original documents, the site is currently highlighting Boyle’s coverage of the scandal.)

Also, be sure to tune in to ABC’s Nightline tonight (11:30 pm ET/10:30 pm CT) for a segment on the investigation.

UPDATE: From the Youth Today website: “The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today postponed its hearing on grant-making practices at the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) until next week. The hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday, June 10. Youth Today will post information about the new time when it is announced by the committee.”


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