The CETA director for Prince George's County has sharply criticized a grand jury report issued two weeks ago that found administration of county Comprehensive Employment and Training Act programs "deficient."
Donald H. Weinberg said grand jury criticism of investigations and monitoring done in his office was "strange, because we've addressed that a couple of months ago." He labeled as "silly" a grand jury charge that county CETA administrators often seem "more concerned with spending federal funds as fast as possible . . . than with providing effective, well-thought-out programs."
CETA, a federal jobs program, has been a major source of Prince George's County jobs since its inception five years ago. In the fiscal year that ended two weeks ago, the county was granted nearly $13 million in CETA funds, which helped employ more than 5,600 people.
The grand jury report was based on an inquiry that lasted five months. The inquiry was undertaken after a CETA employe, an ex-convict, was charged with murdering a teen-aged boy on the grounds of a county-owned mansion where the employe worked. The grand jury later investigated other aspects of the county CETA program.
The inquiry was the third investigation of county CETA programs this year. Previous inquiries have been conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor and the County Council. Neither of the previous investigations found fault with county CETA programs.
The grand jury, however, charged that:
Background investigation of CETA participants "appear to be limited to fiscal responsibility," and do not touch on possible previous criminal records.
Contract monitoring is "too infrequent," and is "more concerned with form than substance."
CETA administrators have been lax in providing "effective, well-thought-out programs."
Although the grand jury noted "no culpability could be established," it urged county CETA administrators "to correct these dificiencies."
Weinberg said officials already have.
"Beginning in August," he said, "we established an evaluation and assessment unit. We evaluate every contractor for compliance and performance." In addition, Weinberg said, an accountant from the county department of finance has been delegated to the CETA staff to work full time on CETA programs.
As a result, "we are reviewing now before we even give a grant," Weinberg said. That was not true until a year ago, he added.
As to the charge that county CETA officials have spent federal money as fast as they could, Weinberg said, "We would have lost money if we hadn't filled positions. And we would have been criticized more for that.
"If we were found deficient in any areas, we would want to correct them. But there has been no impropriety. In my opinion, the grand jury did not make an in-depth investigation."