Oral Testimony Before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Jun 23, 2011

-- As Prepared --

Chairwoman Foxx, Congressman Hinojosa. Thank you for this opportunity to testify today. I will keep my comments brief, and ask that my written testimony be made part of the record.

I welcome this opportunity to discuss our agency’s commitment to accountability, oversight and monitoring practices, and enhancements we plan to make.

Relying on principles of local control, competition, and public-private partnership, the Corporation for National and Community Service engages 5 million Americans in service each year through more than 70,000 community and faith-based organizations.

These Americans tutor and mentor youth, rebuild communities struck by natural disasters, help seniors live independently, support veterans and military families, and meet other local needs – providing vital services to millions of our fellow citizens.

National service recognizes that many of the best solutions come from outside Washington. It invests in people (not bureaucracies) to solve problems, tapping the energy and ingenuity of our greatest resource – the American people.

For 45 years, Presidents and Congresses of both parties have invested in national service.

The 2009 Serve America Act reflected the bipartisan consensus that service is essential to meeting today’s challenges. We are committed to implementing the Act as Congress intended.

We are here to discuss accountability in national service. I want to assure the Committee that we have a deep, longstanding, and ongoing commitment to ensuring the highest levels of accountability. CNCS is a well-managed agency with a strong culture of compliance and accountability.

That is why we were concerned when we received information that led us to suspect that two AmeriCorps members in New York were engaged in prohibited activities.

Once we detected the potential problem, we moved immediately to assess the situation, discovered prohibited activity, and worked with our grantee to have the members removed from service. We notified our Inspector General, bipartisan Board of Directors, and this committee. We are working to recoup any misspent federal funds.

The Inspector General indicated that we have handled the matter appropriately. Federal funds were protected, and this situation is resolved.

Based on my experience working in this and other federal agencies, the oversight and monitoring that CNCS performs is well-designed, well-executed, and effective.

I’d like to highlight some of our current oversight and monitoring practices, which are explained in depth in my written testimony:

  • First, we prevent prohibited activity by communicating our rules before a grant is ever made, and at every stage of the process – through application instructions, grant provisions, member contracts, and grantee trainings.
  • Second, we detect potential prohibited activity through a comprehensive monitoring and oversight protocol that includes site visits, desk audits, and grant reviews.
  • And third, if a prohibited activity occurs, we enforce our rules by requiring corrective action plans, reporting activities to the IG, and in some cases suspending or terminating a grant.

Given our commitment to accountability and our ethic of continuous improvement, and in response to this recent incident, we’ve developed an Action Plan that includes the following steps:

  • First, we will enhance our monitoring protocol in several ways, including requiring all AmeriCorps grantees to annually assure compliance with regulations on prohibited activities.
  • Second, we will enhance our training and technical assistance by strengthening what is provided to grantees and members about prohibited activities, including new, direct communication to members.
  • And finally, we will review our risk assessment tools to identify enhancements for preventing and detecting prohibited activities.

We are pleased to share this Action Plan, and welcome your ideas for improvements. We will report our progress to you during the next 90 days and beyond.

In closing, I hope my testimony today – and the actions we took in this case – assures the Committee of our commitment to accountability.

We look forward to working with the Committee to further strengthen the impact of national service on the challenges facing our communities and the nation.

Today and every day, in communities with the greatest needs across our country, AmeriCorps members are on the frontlines of America’s toughest problems.

Hundreds are serving today in Joplin, Tuscaloosa, Iowa City, and other towns ravaged by tornadoes, floods and forest fires. AmeriCorps members are also responding to the everyday challenges of hunger, homelessness, and illiteracy that prevent millions of Americans from reaching their full potential in life.

Again, thank you and I am pleased to respond to your questions.

Media Contact

Samantha Jo Warfield
(202) 606-6775
sjwarfield@cns.gov

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