RTTT fund, I3 grants among those targeted for federal audits

Federal auditors will focus attention in 2013 on selected recipients of grants issued under the Race to the Top competition, Vocational Rehabilitation State Grant Program and the Investing in Innovation fund.

In its semiannual report to Congress, the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education said the 2013 work plan is aimed at promoting educational excellence and opportunity for all students" and "includes specific work pursuant to numerous department programs impacting its mission to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access."

Part of the office's work is tied to making sure the U.S. Department of Education is conducting its own oversight of federal funds correctly. The agency recently? found that the department failed to recover $415 million of questionable expenses due to the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Of 93 external audits reviewed by OIG and issued between 2007 through 2010, they found that 90 percent - or 84 - of them had not been resolved within six months, and 35 of those 84 audits, or 42 percent, were still unresolved as of January 2012.

In addition to carrying out investigations into fraud, waste and abuse launched as a result of whistle blowers or legislative directive, the office is planning a number of specific inquiries.

One on Race to the Top funding is to determine whether or not "substantial progress" is being made by winning states and school districts in implementing "reform" requirements, which include teacher evaluations based in part on student performance and better data collection systems.

Auditors say they will also be looking to ensure promises made in the grant application are being carried out; whether recipients are accurately reporting RTT related performance, and whether they appropriately administered RTT funds in accordance with program requirements and their approved application.

Other highlights for the 2013 work plan:

Determine whether the department's Rehabilitation Services Administration has designed and implemented adequate and appropriate indicators for measuring employment outcomes and other performance benchmarks for the Vocational Rehabilitation State Grant Program; whether selected state Vocational Rehabilitation agencies administered the funds in accordance with program requirements, and whether state grantees are accurately measuring the performance of their Vocational Rehabilitation programs and maintaining adequate support for reported results.

Determine whether the department's internal controls are appropriate to ensure that recipients of multiple discretionary grant awards are not obtaining funds from multiple sources for the same effort.

Continue ongoing work to determine whether Investing in Innovation recipients are achieving program goals and objectives, and evaluate the adequacy and effectiveness of the department's monitoring to ensure recipients are meeting goals and objectives.

Continue work to evaluate the adequacy of the department's processes to ensure that funded applications demonstrate the involvement and support of teachers, principals, other personnel and unions necessary to carry out program activities; and the department's monitoring plans for funded applicants proposing a planning period to determine whether the department's monitoring efforts ensured applicants made progress toward developing the lacking core element(s) and mitigated related performance risk.

Continue our work to determine whether LEAs that exercised Maintenance of Effort flexibility with Recovery Act IDEA Part B funds were eligible to do so, used and accounted for the "freed up" funds appropriately, and experienced adverse impacts as a result of reducing Special Education MOE.

To learn more visit: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/index.html