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Office of Inspector General Chides DOJ and Navajo Nation for Wasteful Prison Project

The Department of Justice (DOJ) plan seemed straightforward: build two badly-needed correction facilities on the Navajo Nation to replace two obsolescent and overcrowded facilities. Over $70.5 million was allotted for this project, elaborate plans were prepared by professionals, and DOJ and tribal staff selected to supervise the project.  Then it all began to fall apart.

The Office of Inspector General (OIG), the investigative arm of the DOJ, faulted the performance of the Navajo Division of Public Safety (NDPS), stating it, "(1) did not check the suspension and debarment status of contractors paid with grant funds; (2) incurred $656,921 in unsupported costs and $2,554,924 in unallowable costs; (3) did not meet the $16,669 match requirement for one grant; (4) did not expend $535,545 in awarded funds; (5) did not submit accurate Federal Financial Reports for three of the four grants; and (6) expended $290,116 in unnecessary planning grants."

Incredibly, no one supervising the project seemed to notice that the facilities being constructed were 250 percent larger than needed, raising the cost by over $32 million. "NDPS did not comply with essential award conditions related to the use of funds, performance, and financial controls," the OIG noted.

Now NDPS faces the prospect of paying to maintain largely empty facilities, one of which was less than 25% full, while the other new facility was unable to open for lack of funding to pay for staff and maintenance. "[T]here is increased risk that the Tuba City and Kayenta facilities will not become fully operational due to a lack of funding," the OIG stated in its September 2015 audit.

The Navajo Nation, which covers more than 27,000 square miles in parts of the states of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, is the largest Native American reservation in the country.  The population of the reservation is currently 250,000.


See also: "Millions of dollars wasted on nearly empty prisons built twice as large as planned, watchdog says," by Lisa Rein, Washington Post, October 1, 2015.

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