Sneak Preview: Better Oversight Urged for AARP Foundation Grant

Jerry Ashworth
January 11, 2019 at 13:18:34 ET
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(The following was excerpted from an article in the Single Audit Information Service.) The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs (OJP) plans to improve its oversight of a grant awarded to the AARP Foundation to ensure the foundation meets its performance goals and implements policies on funding drawdowns and financial reporting, in response to recommendations in a recent audit by the DOJ Office of Inspector General (OIG).

The Washington, D.C.-based AARP Foundation, the affiliated charity of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), is a nonprofit organization that aims to “provide older adults with nutritious food, affordable housing, a steady income and strong sustaining social bonds.” OJP’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) issued a three-year, $2 million grant award in September 2015 — which had a project period from October 2015 to September 2018 — to support the foundation’s Experience Corps Program, a tutoring initiative where volunteers 50 and older help students in kindergarten through third grade become better readers. OIG audited the grant award to determine whether the costs claimed under the grant were allowable and whether the recipient met program goals and objectives.

While OIG found that the foundation took appropriate measures to ensure its program is established in several locations nationwide, the program as of February 2018 was not meeting its goals of “improving attendance” and “reducing students’ disruptive behavior.” OIG concluded that while the percentage of students participating in the program reported by teachers as meeting metrics such as “improvement in class participation” and “improvement in motivation to learn” was about 78 percent, only about 50 percent of students were reported as meeting the “improving attendance” and “reducing disruptive behavior” goals. “AARP Foundation progress reports acknowledged that the results of both the attendance and disruptive behavior metrics were likely lower because many [students] did not start the academic year with attendance or behavior problems, resulting in a smaller number of potential [students] who could demonstrate improvement in these two metrics,” the report stated.

OIG also found discrepancies in the performance data reported to OJJDP and the data in AARP Foundation’s source documentation. For example, from July 2016 to June 2017, the foundation reported to OJJDP that 28 mentors left the program, while it reported only 22 in its source documentation. It also reported to OJJDP that 2,012 new youth were added to the program during the period, while its source documentation showed that 2,343 youth were added. OIG noted that the foundation, before the audit began, had implemented a corrective action plan to reconcile differences prior to submitting data to OJJDP. “However, in our opinion, any future inability to adhere to this corrective action plan would increase the risk of the AARP Foundation not accurately tracking its performance related to the youth mentoring program grant,” OIG stressed.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time here.)

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