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U.S. Justice Dept watchdog launches audit into troubled grants system

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By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON, Aug 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department's internal watchdog has launched an audit into its $115 million contract with General Dynamics to build its new grant management software, which since its launch has been plagued by technological glitches and caused delays in funding criminal justice programs.

The audit by Inspector General Michael Horowitz was announced just a few weeks after Reuters first reported https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-47-billion-grant-programs-tech-woes-take-toll-justice-groups-2021-07-12 about the system's technology woes and Senator Charles Grassley, the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, called on Horowitz to launch an investigation. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/top-us-senator-demands-inquiry-into-justice-dept-grants-system-2021-07-21

The software program, known as "JustGrants," manages the Justice Department's $4.7 billion portfolio of grants that fund everything from body-worn cameras for police to transitional housing for victims of domestic violence and human trafficking victims.

Built by General Dynamics Corp under a contract with a $115 million ceiling price, JustGrants was intended to consolidate the grants in one place and be compatible with a new government-wide payment system. To date, the Justice Department has spent about $70 million on it.

Reuters interviewed more than a dozen Justice Department employees and grant award winners who said the system has been plagued with severe technological problems which have made it hard to apply for grants or upload documents required in order to be permitted to draw down funds.

In some cases, award winners reported facing months of delays getting their funding.

In announcing the audit, Horowitz's office said it will review the department's transition to the JustGrants system, how it has administered its contract with General Dynamics and whether the company has complied with the contract terms and with federal rules.

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and for General Dynamics had no immediate comment.

The Justice Department has previously acknowledged the system has problems, but said it was unaware of cases in which grantees had not received their funding. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Howard Goller)