The DeKalb County Magistrate Court is changing some of its internal practices after a federal audit found it sometimes did not follow the proper policies while reimbursing grant money and did not correctly report some of its performance data.
The Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women in 2016 and 2017 awarded the court grants aimed at increasing compliance with protective orders, strengthening victim advocacy services and improving the response to families with a history of violence or other abuse. The Magistrate Court handles many civil matters including protective orders and domestic violence prevention advocacy.
In an audit released Tuesday by the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General, the federal government found that the court is “working to achieve its stated goals and objectives for the awards,” and there were no “significant” financial concerns.
The DOJ did, however, identify nearly $30,000 in grant funds doled by the court as reimbursements that lacked sufficient documentation. It also found discrepancies in the court’s reported performance data and raised concerns about the budget management process.
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In response to the audit, the court agreed with the findings and said it would tweak its processes and appoint a judge to serve in a new grants-specific role.
Most of the audit’s concerns stemmed from the Magistrate Court’s interactions with the grants’ “subrecipients.” In this case, the DOJ allowed the Magistrate Court to give out some of the grant money to other agencies or entities, which are known as subrecipients to the grant. The audit did not specify which agencies those are.
If those other entities spent money related to the grant, they were able to request reimbursements from the court. Most of the repayments were legitimate, but the audit identified almost $30,000 in grant funds that the Magistrate Court reimbursed that did not have proper evidence or support.
In a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chief Judge Berryl Anderson pointed out that the auditors only questioned 3% of the nearly $1.5 million given to the court over three years.
“The Court is working with the Office on Violence Against Women to submit the additional documentation and implement new procedures,” Anderson said.
The audit also found that some of the performance statistics released by the court — including the number of people trained and number of protective orders issued — were not accurate. The Magistrate Court also did not properly compare budgeted costs to actual grant costs, “which could result in it expending more grant funds in certain budget categories than approved in its grant budgets,” according to the document.
In a letter to the inspector general’s office in response to the audit, Anderson wrote that her office agreed with the findings and would ensure the questionable charges were legitimate. Judge Shannon McNeal has also been appointed as the court’s Grants Compliance Officer and will ensure that the Magistrate Court follows the laws and policies moving forward, Anderson wrote.
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