[cifnmedia] Feds Probe FIRE Act Grant Fraud

  • From: Sean & Kimberly Aaron <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: CIFN LIST <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2004 04:48:02 -0800 (PST)

Updated: 03-26-2004 01:27:30 PM

Feds Probe FIRE Act Grant Fraud
Accurary of Applications Done by Third Parties Under Scrutiny
 
LON SLEPICKA
Firehouse.com News


The Federal government is conducting a major fraud probe into applications and 
grant awards from the 2002 and 2003 Firefighter Investment and Response 
Enhancement (FIRE) Act Grant Program, sources confirmed to Firehouse.com 
Friday. 

More than 100 applications may be targeted by the ongoing inquiry, sources 
familiar with the investigation said. The investigation centers around 
third-party grant writers hired by many fire departments to assist them or to 
prepare the applications for them. 

The inquiry is being conducted by the Office of the Inspector General for the 
Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service. The 
"investigation is comprehensive and complicated... and there is a lot to be 
done," sources said, speaking in terms of a "group" of individuals and 
departments that are being examined. 

Officially, the agencies involved would not acknowledge any specific 
information while the probe is still ongoing. But sources with knowledge of the 
situation said it appears that "boilerplate" applications and narratives were 
submitted by fire departments. The investigation includes examining, in part, 
the truthfulness and accuracy of the information and those who approved 
submitting it to the grant program. "There are conspirators and 
co-conspirators, and associates and all kinds of [individuals and agencies] 
being looked at," a source said. 

During the grant submission process, an individual who may not be a direct 
member or employee of the submitting fire department - such as a grant writer 
or other consultant - can complete the online or paper application on behalf of 
the agency. The agency remains the "applicant" and assumes an official 
representative has approved the submission. 

The 2003 program guidance (PDF), which would have covered at least some of the 
grants being investigated, states that "one authorized representative of an 
eligible organization [can] log in and create a user name and password for the 
organization -- The selection of the authorized representative is at the 
discretion of each organization." 

A new statement appears in this year's program guidance document (PDF), 
clarifying the role of a grant writer or consultant in the process: 


"Departments can hire a grant writer to assist in the application period, but 
the submitting departments, as the applicant, is responsible for the 
information contained within. By submitting the application, you are certifying 
that all of the information contained therein is true and an accurate 
reflection of your department. Therefore, please review all work produced by 
grant writers or other third parties on your behalf prior to submission." 
In a review of several states' applications in the 2003 program, Firehouse.com 
found several cases where single individuals were the primary contact for 
applications of multiple departments, in some cases a dozen or more. 

According to sources, checks within the grant application and award follow-up 
process likely set off red flags, including repetition of similiar information 
in applications from different departments. "In the course of monitoring 
activities [federal officials] may have uncovered something that need to be 
looked at more closely," a source said. 

Sources said a number of "questionable" applications being analyzed in the 
investigation were successful -- and awards were made to those departments 
based on the applications. It was not clear - should the investigation take the 
next step to prosecution - what would happen, if anything, to those 
departments. 

Firehouse.com is not publishing names of known individuals under investigation 
unless formal charges are filed or they are otherwise released by the 
investigating agencies. 

The FIRE Act grant program, now known as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant 
Program, began with USFA/FEMA and is transitioning now into the Office for 
Domestic Preparedness in the Department of Homeland Security. The program has 
wrapped up its third year, granting over 15,000 awards to fire departments and 
providing over $1.3 billion directly for their needs during that time. 
Applications for the 2004 program are being taken now through April 2
 



Sean A. Aaron (CIFN*1)
Central Illinois Fire Network
cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
www.geocities.com/central_illinois_firenet


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