ACF Strengthened its Oversight of Head Start Eligibility in Fiscal Year 2011
Poison ivy, a gas-powered hedge trimmer, toxic chemicals, rusty nails, a machete... What do all of these items have in common? OIG auditors found them all in reach of children at Head Start locations.
WHY WE DID THIS STUDY
We conducted this evaluation in response to a congressional request. In May 2010, a Government Accountability Office official testified at a congressional hearing about potential eligibility fraud at eight Head Start grantees. At this same hearing, ACF committed to improving its oversight of eligibility. This study looked at changes to ACF's oversight of eligibility made between fiscal years (FY) 2010 and FY 2011.
HOW WE DID THIS STUDY
To determine whether ACF made changes to its oversight of eligibility, we reviewed relevant documents and conducted structured interviews. We also reviewed data for Head Start grantees that received triennial reviews-the standardized, onsite reviews that ACF conducts for each grantee once every 3 years-between October 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011, to determine the number and percentage of sampled children with required eligibility information on file. Finally, we determined the extent to which ACF issued findings related to missing eligibility information.
WHAT WE FOUND
ACF strengthened its oversight of eligibility between FY 2010 and FY 2011. Specifically, ACF altered its FY 2011 triennial reviews to determine whether grantees kept on file the source documents proving children's eligibility. Further, ACF began performing unannounced triennial reviews. In addition, ACF promulgated draft regulations that, once final, will require grantees to keep source documents on file. Finally, ACF developed an online complaint process for the Head Start program to capture complaints that could help the agency uncover problems with grantees.
Our review of data collected during ACF's FY 2011 triennial reviews found that 79 percent of grantees kept required eligibility information for all sampled children. The remaining 21 percent of grantees missing eligibility information were usually missing it for few sampled children. ACF was not consistent in issuing findings to grantees missing eligibility information in FY 2011. In FY 2012, ACF has taken action to reduce this variation when issuing findings.
This report does not contain recommendations.