Feds Will Ask State to Return Loans; LEAA Charges Crime Funds Misspent

Law Agency Charges $7 Million Misused

The federal government will ask the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for a refund of $7 million it loaned the state to build a criminal records computer because the project has not been completed.

In an audit published last week, the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) said the organization charged with building the computer, the Criminal History Systems Board (CHSB) could not document how it had spent the funds.

The state founded CHSB in 1972 to promulgate standards for storage and dissemination of criminal records and for building a criminal records computer.

The funds are all accounted for, and there was no element of wrong-doing on the part of the CHSB, Louis Saken, the executive director of CHSB, said yesterday.

Saken said the audit did not take into account that the funds had been loaned over a seven-year period and not in one lump sum.

Saken said he was currently applying the remainder of the last LEAA loan and the $1.9 million the state had appropriated to help program the computer, adding he could not estimate when the computer would be completed.

The computer has been built but "is not currently able to receive, process and disseminate the information," Daniel Jaffee, a former staff member of the CHSB, said yesterday.

Waste Not, Want Not

CHSB spent the money gathering criminal records from various state agencies, transfering personnel to CHSB and building the actual computer, Jaffe said.

The audit also cited the lack of guidance the CHSB and Massachusetts Commission on Criminal Justice had in administering the program.

Jaffe said the CHSB loans had varied in size from "$20,000 to the six-figure range."

The audit specifically mentioned $100,000 spent by the CHSB on consultant reports to determine how CHSB might best administer the LEAA funds.

Jaffe said one of these reports, which cost $70,000, "will be very helpful in proving that the funds were spent properly."

The LEAA audit also reported that 70,000 criminal histories that the CHSB had transferred to computer tapes were no longer usable because they were two years old and out of date.

Jaffe said the program was not well administered because the board members have positions with other state agencies. They do not have the time to administer the complex needs of the CHSB, he added.