May 3, 2011--The state of Delaware has not adequately monitored the outside agencies that administer its federally funded programs, including the weatherization program that wasted thousands of stimulus dollars, according to a new independent audit released last month.
Auditors also noted problems with the state's oversight of Catholic Charities, which administers the $15 million Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Their criticism focused on the state, not on the work done by the nonprofit Catholic Charities.
State Auditor R. Thomas Wagner Jr. said state departments must retain their oversight of federal programs.
"When we get the federal dollars, the state has the ultimate responsibility to make sure those dollars are properly spent," Wagner said. "No matter how holy the name of a charity may be, you still have to do your due diligence to make sure it's done right."
State officials said they have already instituted stronger oversight of Catholic Charities, which has administered LIHEAP for more than 25 years. The state now requires more documentation of expenses and monitors the charity throughout the year.
"There are steps being put into place to strengthen the whole process to address the auditors' concerns," said Henry Smith III, deputy secretary of health and social services, whose state agency oversees LIHEAP.
The annual audit examined the spending of $2.2 billion in federal money in 2009-10 for a wide variety of programs. The total was about $580 million more than the previous year, largely because of the federal stimulus program.
Some of the problems — known as findings — involved confusion over how to document stimulus spending or account for it separately from other federal sources.
"It doesn't say those dollars are misspent," Wagner said. "It just says you can't say they were properly spent."
The state has been cited in previous audits for doing a poor job of monitoring the work of nonprofit groups, for-profit companies and local governments contracted to administer federal programs, Wagner said.
"It's not just an issue for Health and Social Services; it's an issue across the state," Wagner said.
Source: Delaware auditor, newspapers