Excerpted from Bush Administration Fails to Live up to Promise to Help Modern Day Slavery Victims by Meg White for BuzzFlash.com:
In its July 2008 audit report on the management of grant programs to assist victims of human trafficking released last week, the inspector general at the Justice Department had several alarming criticisms.
The report estimates somewhere between 14,500 and 17,500 victims are trafficked into the U.S. each year. The year the report marks as a high point in victim assistance is 2005; the report says the numbers of victims assisted since then have fallen off dramatically. However, using the more conservative estimate, the agencies were still serving less than five percent of victims trafficked in the U.S.
Even more troubling, though, is the fact that some service providers are fudging these already dismal numbers to look more productive than they actually are. The audit could verify less than one fourth of the number of victims the service providers reported to Congress between 2003 and 2006. So, that high water mark in 2005 could actually be hovering around one or two percent of U.S. slavery victims instead of five. The audit found that the programs work, but that service providers are generally failing to identify and reach out to victims.
There is also a problem of misused funds. Between 2005 and 2007, the agency awarded more than $19 million in grants for assisting victims of human trafficking. However, four out of seven individually-audited service providers spent only 10 percent of their grant money on direct victim assistance.
The audit found that the Justice Department wasn’t managing the grant money very well, either. The amount of money given to each service provider varied wildly and did not necessarily correspond to the number of victims served in a rational way.
Audits of goals achieved by individual grantees were also disappointing. The report cites “systemic” problems with service providers failing to comply with nine out of 10 essential grant requirements. One would think such low performance would preclude service providers from continuing to receive federal grants, but that does not appear to be the case.
At a moment when Congress and some state governments are apologizing for our country’s history of institutionalized slavery, the federal government needs to step up and stop human trafficking at our state and national borders.