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Mo. auditor: oversight lacking on stimulus funds

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Some state agencies have not adequately monitored the use of federal economic stimulus money, raising questions about whether it was spent properly, Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich said Thursday.

Missouri’s first significant audit of its share of federal stimulus dollars did not turn up any blatant cases of misuse of the money, but Schweich cited numerous examples where agencies weren’t tracking or documenting the money very well.

“It’s more than shoddy paperwork,” Schweich said. “When there’s inadequate documentation, you don’t know if there’s waste, fraud or abuse.”

The auditor’s office compiles a report each year tracking the state’s use of federal money. Missouri spent nearly $15 billion of federal funds in the 2010 fiscal year, including about $2.6 billion of stimulus funds. The audit looked at 30 state programs that received most of that federal money, using random sampling for a closer look at some of those expenditures.

The audit said officials at the Department of Higher Education were unaware they were supposed monitor the use of $134 million of stimulus money it distributed to 23 public colleges and universities during the 2010 fiscal year. The agency was expected to distribute an additional $41 million of stimulus money to institutions by the end of June.

The department now has contracted with an entity to act as a monitor beginning this month, the audit said.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, which distributed $664 million of stimulus funds to public school districts last fiscal, already has procedures for monitoring the use of its money. But Schweich said there is a one-year lag in its monitoring process; he suggested the department should set up a special system for examining stimulus money more quickly — a recommendation with which the department disagreed.

In addition to the two education agencies, Schweich said the departments of Social Services and Natural Resources also lacked procedures necessary to ensure that required federal quarterly reports on stimulus dollars are complete and accurate. He said the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations was unable to adequately track stimulus funds.

“Because it’s a new program, we found a lot of glitches that need to be corrected, and corrected quickly,” Schweich said while generally complimenting agencies on their willingness work with his office.

Some of the audit’s findings related to federal money that is routinely provided to states, such as for Medicaid and welfare payments.

Schweich questioned $29.6 million in foster care, adoption and guardianship costs charged by the state Department of Social Services to the federal government’s welfare program known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. He suggested the costs may not have been allowable under federal regulations. The department’s written response included the audit said it disagreed with the auditor’s findings, but it did not elaborate.

Among other questioned expenses, the audit cited 2,191 voided checks that were nonetheless redeemed by participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. The audit questioned the federal share of that money, amounting to $43,140.

The audit also sampled several dozen Medicaid cases in which people received aid for personal care such as bathing, dressing and cooking. The Department of Health and Senior Services failed to perform the required annual eligibility verifications in 49 of those 66 cases and thus could not demonstrate those individuals were eligible to receive a total of $806,967 in state and federally funded services, the audit said.

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