What is AmeriCorps OIG?
The OIG is an independent unit responsible for overseeing AmeriCorps’ activities, programs, and operations, including grants and contracts funded by the agency.
What type of matters does AmeriCorps OIG investigate?
The OIG has broad authority to investigate allegations of wrongdoing involving AmeriCorps personnel, as well as members, volunteers, and staff of grant recipient organizations and contractors, including:
- violations of law, rule, or regulation;
- gross mismanagement;
- gross waste of funds;
- abuse of authority;
- a substantial and specific danger to health or safety; and
- retaliation against whistleblowers related to AmeriCorps programs, activities and operations, including contracts and grants.
What standards apply to AmeriCorps OIG investigations?
AmeriCorps OIG investigations must be conducted in accordance with the Quality Standards for Investigations issued by the Council of Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) and the Attorney General Guidelines for Offices of Inspectors General with Statutory Law Enforcement Authority.
What should be reported to AmeriCorps OIG, and who is required to report?
AmeriCorps personnel are required to report to the OIG, without delay, any suspicion of, or information that suggests, waste, fraud, or abuse in connection with AmeriCorps operations, programs, activities, contracts, or grants at any level.
Grantees/subgrantees and their staff are subject to the same requirements under the terms and conditions of AmeriCorps grants. Federal regulations also mandate that grantees disclose all violations of Federal criminal law involving fraud, bribery, or gratuities that could potentially affect the Federal award.
Contractors/subcontractors and their staff are subject to the Federal Acquisition Regulations that require disclosure to the OIG of violations of the following:
- Federal criminal law involving fraud, conflict of interest, bribery, or gratuities;
- False Claims Act; and
- Anti-Kickback Act
- Any violations
- Contractors/subcontractors and their staff must also report any violation(s) or suspicion of violation(s) as required by their particular contract. 5.
What happens if I do not comply with the applicable reporting requirements?
AmeriCorps personnel: Failure to comply with reporting requirements is grounds for disciplinary action.
Contractor/subcontractors and their staff: Failure to comply with reporting requirements is abreach of the contract and may be evidence of a lack of present responsibility.
Grantee/subgrantees and their staff: Failure to comply with reporting requirements may result in:
- AmeriCorps imposing additional conditions on the Federal award;
- Withholding of Federal funds;
- Disallowing costs
- Suspension or termination of the Federal award; or
- Suspension or debarment proceedings, as appropriate, as well as actions against the individuals responsible. 6.
When must I report an allegation to the OIG?
AmeriCorps personnel and contractors/subcontractors, grantees/subgrantees and their staff are required to report to the OIG, without delay, any suspicion of, or information or evidence that suggests, waste, fraud, or abuse in connection with AmeriCorps operations, programs, activities, contracts, or grants at any level.
- Without delay means reporting as soon as possible, with only an emergency taking precedence over reporting.
How do I report fraud, waste, abuse, or mismanagement of grant funds?
The OIG operates a Hotline through which anyone may report fraud, waste, abuse of authority, and mismanagement. You can contact the Hotline by calling 800-452-8210 or through our Hotline Webform.
Who must cooperate with OIG investigations?
AmeriCorps personnel, contractors/subcontractors and their staff, and grantees/subgrantees and their staff are required by law, regulation, policy and AmeriCorps Grant Terms and Conditions to cooperate with OIG investigations.9.
What are my obligations during an OIG investigation?
You are required to cooperate fully with any OIG investigation. Upon written request, AmeriCorps personnel must promptly provide the OIG with access to personnel, facilities, records, files, information systems and other sources of information pertaining to AmeriCorps programs, operations, activities, grants and contracts without burdensome administrative requirements or screening procedures that might impede the OIG’s access.
- Full cooperation includes being fully candid and forthcoming when interviewed and providing any requested records in the employee's possession or to which he/she has access.
You are not required to inform your supervisors or obtain permission to speak with or provide information to OIG investigators.
You must provide the best, most accurate, and complete information.
Anyone requested to provide information to the OIG should avoid narrowly construing interview questions or record requests and promptly provide requested records. When a general question or issue is posed, an individual or entity should include specific information that they recognize as potentially relevant.
What are the rights of interviewees in connection with a criminal OIG investigation?
Any interviewee may assert their Fifth Amendment right to refuse to provide information on the grounds that the information may incriminate them in a criminal proceeding. An OIG investigation can result in a criminal proceeding only if the Department of Justice (DOJ) accepts it for criminal prosecution.
AmeriCorps personnel must fully cooperate with investigators if a case or issue has been declined for criminal prosecution by DOJ or did not require referral to DOJ, and investigators may provide written notice (advisement) of that fact. Following this advisement, statements related to the matter covered by the advisement cannot be used in a criminal prosecution, unless the statements are found to be untruthful.
AmeriCorps may take disciplinary action against AmeriCorps personnel who refuse to be interviewed and respond to the OIG’s questions, following this advisement. AmeriCorps personnel who are members of the bargaining unit may request union representation to be present during the interview. However, the union representative cannot interfere with the interview.
What shouldn’t I do during an OIG investigation?
Except to assert your right against self-incrimination (see Question 10), you should not refuse to provide documents or information, or to answer questions in an OIG inquiry, conceal information, obstruct the OIG’s work, or knowingly and willfully provide false or misleading information in relation to an OIG inquiry. Doing so may subject you to criminal prosecution and disciplinary action.
All interviewees may, at their discretion, inform their management of OIG’s contact concerning an investigation. It is not appropriate for an individual to discuss the substance of communications with OIG with anyone other than their attorney, including managers and other employees.
All managers, supervisors and officials must not take any action that inhibits cooperation by any staff member, or of the staff of a contractor/subcontractor, or grantee/subgrantee. They must respect the right of an individual to communicate directly and in confidence with OIG.12.
Can I discuss the substance of my interview with someone with whom I work?
In order to protect witness confidentiality, preserve the integrity of OIG’s investigation, and for reasons of fairness and privacy, OIG investigators commonly direct that all interviewees not discuss OIG interviews with their coworkers, subordinates, or supervisors. This part of an employee’s obligation to cooperate with an OIG investigation extends after any interview.
If so directed by OIG investigators, you should not discuss the nature, substance or content of an interview or information request with anyone other than their attorney, including managers, other coworkers, other witnesses, or any party that is potentially involved in the investigation.
Managers, supervisors and officials should not question subordinates about OIG interviews or requests, including the nature, content of substance of questions, requests or responses. Such actions could compromise the investigation and discourage cooperation.
Can an AmeriCorps attorney represent or advise me during an OIG investigation or interview?
No. Government attorneys represent the interest of the agency only and may not act on behalf of any individual. The individual may retain a private attorney at their personal expense for representation during an OIG investigation or interview.
By law, AmeriCorps personnel who are members of AmeriCorps’ bargaining unit may have union representation present during an interview.
Contractor, subcontractor, grantee, and subgrantee staff may have an attorney represent them during an OIG investigation or interview.
Making a Complaint/Reporting Waste, Fraud, Abuse or Mismanagement
Can I make a complaint to the OIG confidentially?
Anyone can make confidential disclosures to AmeriCorps OIG. AmeriCorps OIG is prohibited from disclosing a whistleblower’s identity without the individual’s consent unless the Inspector General determines that disclosure is unavoidable or is compelled by a court order.
- It is against the law for an employer, including AmeriCorps, a grantee, or a contractor to retaliate against an employee for providing information to the OIG. See Whistleblower FAQs. The OIG takes whistleblower protection very seriously and, along with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, investigates allegations of retaliation against AmeriCorps employees for making protected disclosures to the OIG.
Complainants should provide as much detailed information as possible. The more information and relevant documents provided, the more likely that the OIG can determine whether wrongdoing has occurred.
If you provide us with an email or phone number, we will reach out to you shortly after we receive your complaint to obtain additional information. We may also have some follow-up questions or need additional information in the future, so it is recommended you provide us with a way to contact you.
What happens after I file a complaint?
The OIG will promptly review the information in your complaint and determine if it warrants further action. If so, the OIG may open an investigation, audit, or evaluation, or, with your consent, refer the matter to AmeriCorps or another Federal or state agency.
Can I learn the status of a complaint or investigation?
The OIG does not provide status reports. To obtain information about the OIG’s activities, you must file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. In accordance with FOIA, we will evaluate your request to determine whether the OIG can provide you with any documents that are responsive to the request. The OIG generally does not provide information about pending investigations in response to FOIA requests.
What happens at the conclusion of an OIG investigation?
In an administrative investigation, the OIG will produce a report based on the evidence presented, including witness interviews, records, and other evidence. The findings in administrative investigations are provided to the appropriate agency officials, accompanied by recommendations as warranted, for action. In criminal or civil investigations, the OIG reports its findings in the form requested by the relevant prosecuting authority.
How can I find out information about completed OIG investigations?
AmeriCorps OIG reports nature and results of completed investigations on its website and includes highlights of investigations in Semiannual Reports to Congress.
Except with respect to certain high-level officials, privacy laws generally restrict an OIG from disclosing the specifics of an administrative investigation to anyone other than the subject and agency officials with a need to know. In appropriate cases, the OIG may inform the subject of an investigation and/or the complainant of the results. An investigation that results in litigation, a criminal plea or a settlement is publicly reported on the OIG’s website.
Anyone may seek non-public OIG investigative reports by submitting a FOIA request to AmeriCorps. In accordance with FOIA, we will evaluate your request to determine whether AmeriCorps OIG can provide you with any documents that are responsive to the request.
To whom may questions or issues about OIG's investigative process be addressed?
You can call the AmeriCorps OIG Hotline number at 800-452-8210 with any questions or issues regarding OIG investigations. Your inquiry will be directed to a supervisor in the Investigation Section.
What is an audit?
An audit is a systematic, independent, and documented process for obtaining evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine whether an agency is carrying out a program, activity, or operation effectively, efficiently, and in accordance with law, rules, regulations, and sound practices OIG audits provide AmeriCorps and the public with information about the performance and accountability of the agency and its grantees and contractors. They provide AmeriCorps management with information to address emerging issues, risks, and management challenges and make recommendations to strengthen the agency and enable it to achieve its mission.
Audits are conducted pursuant to the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards (GAGAS), known as the “Yellow Book,” issued by the Comptroller General of the United States. GAGAS provides a framework for conducting high-quality government audits with competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence, to ensure that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence that will provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions.
OIG’s audits are conducted by members of OIG’s Audit Section or they are contracted out to Independent Public Accountants (IPAs) under the Audit Section’s supervision.
What is an inspection or evaluation?
An inspection is an independent review and assessment of programs, results, and/or resource management. Inspections can be very narrowly focused, looking at a single transaction within a large system or can look at overall system controls. Evaluations take a broader, multi-disciplinary approach to review and assess programs, results, resource management, and policies. Inspections typically include well-defined criteria, while evaluations require more in-depth analysis and professional judgment.
Inspections and evaluations are governed by the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency's (CIGIE) Quality Standards for Inspection and Evaluation (December 2020), known as the “Blue Book.”
How does the OIG decide what to audit, evaluate or review?
The Inspector General sets the OIG’s priorities for audits, evaluations, and other reviews. We weigh issues such as risk, the past experience of the agency and its grantees, cross-agency priorities, the cost to the U.S. taxpayer, and impact on the AmeriCorps mission. We also seek input from our stakeholders, such as agency management and employees, as well as Congress.
Each year, we create and publish an Audit Plan outlining our planned audits and evaluations for the year. As circumstances warrant, we may adjust the plan in light of shifting needs, resources, and priorities.
Some audits are required by law, including an annual audit of the financial statements of AmeriCorps and the National Service Trust, an annual review of the agency’s progress in eliminating and recovering improper payments, and an annual assessment of the agency’s cybersecurity program.
Where can I find OIG audit, evaluation, and inspection reports?
Reports containing findings and recommendations are public documents and are posted on AmeriCorps OIG’s website and on Oversight.gov, which collects reports from all Federal OIGs and some state and local OIGs.
Who is required to cooperate with an audit?
All levels of AmeriCorps personnel, including members and volunteers, and the personnel of grantees, subgrantees, contractors, and subcontractors are required to cooperate with OIG personnel during any OIG audit, investigation, or other inquiry. This means participating in interviews, responding to surveys, and providing all requested documentation and information promptly.
The OIG is authorized to access all documents and information relating to agency programs and operations, including grants, subgrants, contracts, and subcontracts.
How long does an audit take?
While it depends on the individual project, the OIG strives to issue a final audit, inspection, or evaluation report within a year after the initiation date.
What is the audit and review process? What can an agency office or program expect?
Once the OIG decides to perform an audit or evaluation, the Audit Section takes the following steps:
- Notifies the auditee(s) in writing of the upcoming audit;
- Holds an entrance conference with the auditee(s) and stakeholders to explain the scope of the audit and the procedures to be followed;
- Conducts fieldwork (gathering documentation and interviewing knowledgeable persons) and analyzes the results;
- Holds an exit conference with the auditee(s) and stakeholders, generally providing a preliminary assessment;
- Prepares and issues a draft report for review and comment by the auditee(s). The auditee has 30 days to submit a written response to the report, including each finding and recommendation. It is often effective for the auditee to describe any actions taken, or to be taken, as a result of the draft report contents; and
- Considers the auditee’s response to the draft report, revises the report as appropriate and incorporates the auditees’ comments into a final report.
Will the auditee have a chance to respond to OIG findings prior to the issuance of the draft report?
Generally, yes. Typically, the OIG shares preliminary findings and observations with the auditee on an ongoing basis during fieldwork. Auditees can, and should, work with us during fieldwork to ensure that our information is factually correct and to promptly resolve any issues or miscommunications.
How do you determine whether an auditee has implemented your recommendations?
AmeriCorps’ Office of Audit and Debt Resolution will contact the grantee to start the AmeriCorps Audit Resolution process. We request the agency provide us with documentation to show that the auditee has implemented our recommendations.
We may also perform an in-depth follow-up review to assess the implementation of our recommendations and the corrective actions taken.
The OIG maintains a list of pending recommendations and publishes a table regarding their implementation in Semiannual Reports to Congress. By listing the unimplemented recommendations from our audits and evaluations, this Table keeps Congress and the American public fully informed about the progress of AmeriCorps and its grantees in addressing issues identified in our oversight work and maintains accountability.
What is a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is someone who reports/discloses waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement to someone who is in the position to rectify the wrongdoing. A whistleblower typically works inside of the organization or is associated with one of its programs.2.
Who is required to disclose possible violations, thereby becoming a whistleblower?
AmeriCorps personnel and grantees/subgrantees and their staff: AmeriCorps personnel are required to report to the OIG, without delay, any suspicion of, or information or evidence that suggests, waste, fraud, or abuse in connection with AmeriCorps operations, programs, activities, contracts, or grants at any level.
Contractors/subcontractors and their staff: Staff must disclose to AmeriCorps OIG in writing violations of the following Federal statutes:
- Violations of Federal criminal law Involving fraud, conflict of interest, bribery, or gratuities.
- Violations of the False Claims Act.
- Violations of the Anti-Kickback Act.
Contractors/subcontractors and their staff: Staff must also report any violation(s) or suspicion of violation(s) as required by their particular contract.
What whistleblower disclosures are protected?
Generally speaking, a disclosure is protected if the person reporting it reasonably believes that the information to be evidence of:
- a violation of any law, rule, or regulation,
- gross mismanagement,
- a gross waste of funds,
- an abuse of authority, or
- a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Are whistleblowers who disclose wrongdoing regarding AmeriCorps’s programs or operations protected from retaliation?
Yes, if you work for AmeriCorps, a grantee/subgrantee or a contractor/subcontractor, your employer cannot retaliate against you for disclosing wrongdoing about AmeriCorps programs, operations or activities to the proper recipients. 5.
To whom can I make a protected disclosure?
All individuals: Anyone can make disclosures to:
- AmeriCorps OIG via the Hotline, at 800-452-8210 using our Hotline Webform or to the Whistleblower Protection Coordinator);
- a Member of Congress (including any Congressional committees).
AmeriCorps personnel: AmeriCorps personnel can also make disclosures to:
- the Office of Special Counsel; or
- an agency employee designated by the head of the agency to receive such disclosures.
Grantee/subgrantee/contractor/subcontractor staff: Staff can also make disclosures to:
- the Government Accountability Office;
- an AmeriCorps employee responsible for contract or grant oversight or management at AmeriCorps;
- an authorized official of the Department of Justice or other law enforcement agency;
- a court or grand jury; or
- a management official or other employee of the contractor/subcontractor or grantee/subgrantee who has the responsibility to investigate, discover, or address misconduct.
How can someone file a complaint if he/she believes whistleblower retaliation has occurred?
Anyone who believes they have been improperly retaliated against may contact the AmeriCorps OIG at 800-452-8210 or through our Hotline Webform, or the AmeriCorps OIG Whistleblower Protection Coordinator.
AmeriCorps personnel who believe they have been improperly retaliated against may also contact the Office of Special Counsel (OSC).
- Certain employees may be able to appeal whistleblower retaliation directly to the Merit Systems Protection Board.
Whom can I contact at the OIG if I have questions about my whistleblower rights?
You can contact the AmeriCorps OIG Whistleblower Protection Coordinator, who is responsible for:
- Educating AmeriCorps employees and managers about prohibitions on retaliation for protected disclosures, and informing employees who have made or are contemplating making a protected disclosure about their rights and remedies against retaliation for protected disclosures;
- Ensuring that AmeriCorps OIG promptly and thoroughly reviews and acts appropriately on allegations of whistleblower retaliation; and
- Coordinating with the Office of Special Counsel, other agencies and non-governmental organizations on relevant matters.
However, the Whistleblower Protection Coordinator is prohibited by law from acting as a whistleblower's representative, agent or advocate.
What forms of relief are available to a whistleblower who has suffered retaliation?
For AmeriCorps personnel, forms of relief include, but are not limited to:
- job restoration;
- reversal of suspensions and other adverse actions;
- back pay; and
- reasonable and foreseeable consequential damages, such as medical costs, attorney fees, and compensatory damages. In addition, damages may be awarded for attorney fees and expenses incurred due to retaliation.
For staff of contractors/subcontractors and grantees/subgrantees, forms of relief include, but are not limited to:
- Ordering the contractor/subcontractor or grantee/subgrantee to:
- take affirmative action to end and/or reverse the actions taken in reprisal;
- reinstate the complainant to the position held before the reprisal, providing compensatory damages (including back pay) and employment benefits, and otherwise meeting the terms and conditions of employment that would apply if the reprisal had not been taken; and
- pay costs and expenses incurred by the complainant (such as attorneys’ fees and expert witnesses’ fees) that AmeriCorps determines were reasonably incurred relating to the reprisal complaint.
Are AmeriCorps members and volunteers protected from retaliation for whistleblowing?
The whistleblower protection laws do not cover members or volunteers in programs funded by AmeriCorps. However, retaliation against a member or volunteer for reporting misconduct may violate other laws, regulations or agency rules. For this reason, AmeriCorps OIG encourages any member or volunteer who believes they have suffered retaliation for reporting misconduct to report the matter to the OIG at 800-452-8210 or through our Hotline Webform so that the OIG can investigate matters, if appropriate.