On an annual basis, the Department of Justice (Department) receives the Fees and Expenses of Witnesses (FEW) appropriation, which is intended to provide a centralized funding source for certain costs associated with the legal proceedings of the federal government, such as the fees, expenses, and protection of witnesses, and the defense of government employees sued in their official capacity. The FEW is a mandatory, no-year appropriation, meaning that it does not need further authorization by Congress to be provided to the Department each year. In addition, the Department can carry forward any remaining balance of the funds from one fiscal year (FY) to the next. Since FY 2011, the Department has received an annual appropriation of $270 million and the Department’s carry forward amount has increased dramatically, from $18.6 million to $202 million in FY 2014.
OIG found that nearly 80 percent of the annual FEW appropriation is used by the Department to pay for the fees and expenses for expert and fact witnesses. Because over 90 percent of this amount is used to fund expert witness contracts, the objective of this audit was to review the Department’s management and use of the expert witness portion of the FEW appropriation.
OIG found that 74, or 10 percent, of the contract files we reviewed did not satisfy the FEW Guiding Principles. These 74 contracts totaled $15.2 million, representing about 9 percent of the more than $178 million in FEW funds we tested.
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