Children and teenagers who participate in crime-prevention programs funded by the Department of Justice are learning interesting things. According to a report released Monday by Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s office*, millions of dollars in grant money doled out by the DOJ has gone toward teaching young people across the country the ins and outs of golf, appreciating fine art, and the proper use of binoculars.
Also, that Santa is a fascist. Yes, it’s true. A company granted $30,000 by the DOJ for film programs meant to deter something — violence? — once showed an audience of youngsters “Santa, the Fascist Years,” a film which “uncovers and explores Santa‘s flirtation with politics and greed.”
Watch: Clip of “Santa, the Fascist Years”
But that’s not all. DOJ dollars have also paid for “a carnival, skateboarding, dancing, fashion shows, and even a doughnut eating contest,” all in the name of crime prevention.
This has led Coburn’s office to break out some rather aggressive questions: Why? WHY? and HUH?
“Americans woke up to news of a car bomb in New York‘s Times Square and a national debt surpassing $13 trillion in May,” begins the report from Sen. Tom Coburn’s office. “At the same time, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was preparing for a ―Fun Day celebration in Texas, a luau in Tennessee, and other parties and fun activities across the country.”
In a report titled “Party at the DOJ,” Coburn’s office revealed that the recipients of DOJ funds are having an inordinate amount of fun, and that though it may delight the kiddies, there’s “little evidence that these programs,” fun though they be, have done anything to advance the DOJ’s mission.
But lest skeptics charge Coburn with of possessing an anti-fun bias, the Government Accountability Office also concluded that such programs have been chronically mismanaged by the DOJ.
“The GAO‘s findings that DOJ could not demonstrate the cost or effectiveness of recreational activities funded by the Department‘s grants echoes other recent evaluations of these same programs by a number of different investigations and reviews, all concluding results are not being demonstrated, oversight is lacking, and funds may be being misused,” Coburn’s report reads.
In 2009, the GAO concluded that while the DOJ had been collecting the data necessary to review programs conducted by the Office of Justice Programs, it had a poor record of sharing that information with legislators. “While [the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention] has developed performance measures for its grant programs and collects performance measurement data from its grantees, the office is making limited use of these data because it is not verifying these data to ensure their quality, which is inconsistent with leading management practices in performance measurement.”
The GAO letter goes on to cite OJP officials who say “they have not taken action to verify performance data because since 2002 they have focused on the collection of such data rather than on its utilization.”
Coburn does give credit where credit is due: One recipient of DOJ funds, the youth outreach organization Weed and Seed, commissioned an evaluation of its programs without prompting. After 40 days, the evaluating company submitted a seven-page report and a bill for $20,000. The conclusion of said report? Weed and Seed didn’t know how to manage its money.
Even groups that are using money wisely may be wasting taxpayer dollars simply based on the fact that duplicate programs exist across federal agencies. There’s simply no system in place to make sure that the Department of Education isn’t receiving money for the same programs as the DOJ, says Coburn’s report.
Coburn’s report recommends that Congress and the Attorney General’s office begin tracking activities, identifying goals, and developing a metric by which to measure those goals; that the Congressional Oversight and Judiciary Committees insure fair bidding practices; and that Congress and the DOJ collectively revisit the responsibility of local government for solving local problems.
“Local communities, for example, should take a greater role in financing recreational activities and DOJ should focus on those efforts communities are less prepared to address such as terrorism and drug cartel activities,” recommends the report.
*Main Justice, a specialty publication that covers D.C.’s legal system, contacted The Daily Caller to say that an image used in Coburn’s report was taken from their website without permission or acknowledgement. In the interest of giving credit where credit is due, The Daily Caller would like to credit Main Justice for its photo illustration of McGruff the Crime Dog at a party.