Lax oversight may have opened the door to fraud, waste and abuse in a stimulus-funded program that spent $266 million on home weatherization projects across Ohio, according to state investigators.
The Ohio Inspector General this week released a report questioning $223,437 in expenditures under the program, including $108,629 at Community Action Partnerships of the Greater Dayton Area.
State Inspector General Randall Meyer told the Dayton Daily News on Wednesday that his office looked at just a sample of high-risk areas and “those numbers (of questionable costs) could be considerably higher.”
CAP of Dayton received $18 million under the program to weatherize 2,145 homes of low-income residents of Montgomery, Greene, Butler, Warren, Preble and Darke counties in 2009 through 2011.
Questioned costs locally include $63,122 worth of duplicate reports that indicate “a risk the agency may have been paid twice,” the report says. It also questioned $44,372 in work it said lacks supporting documentation and $1,135 in discrepancies between bills and work reports.
The report also said that timesheets filled out by Community Action Partnership reflected fewer hours worked than what was billed for the program.
CAP of Dayton officials said they were caught off guard by the report and they are looking into its findings, but are confident they did nothing wrong and believe they could have cleared up some issues if state investigators would have asked.
“I think it gives the impression there are significant issues here,” said CAP President Tim Donnellan. “There’s absolutely no wrongdoing.”
Weatherization program director Leonard Florence said some of the duplicate reports were likely due to “glitches” in the state computer system, and that no one was paid twice.
As for the missing supporting documentation and the timesheet discrepancy, Florence said he is looking into it.
“We spent every dollar they gave us, and we spent it right,” he said.
The report singled out 10 other agencies across Ohio that administered the weatherization program.
Meyer said his investigators found the program lacked eligibility checks and that people claiming they were low-income but living in houses worth more than $300,000 benefitted from the program. Other homes were new and had energy-efficient fixtures.
There were also instances of agencies possibly billing the state and power companies such as Dayton Power & Light for the same work, he said.
Not only does this suggest taxpayers may have been over-charged, Meyer said, but “when people cheat the system like this, other individuals who need the assistance can’t get it.”
The findings were turned over to the Ohio Development Services Agency for further investigation, as well as auditors at the state and federal level.
This isn’t the first audit to find flaws in oversight of the stimulus-funded weatherization program.
In 2011, the inspector general found that the Ohio Development Services Agency – then called the Ohio Department of Development – was supposed to inspect 5 percent of the completed homes but actually was inspecting half of 1 percent of the homes locally.
Another audit by the U.S. Department of Energy concluded CAP of Dayton did not properly document $94,000 in spending on the program in 2009 and 2010.
CAP officials said that issue came down to paperwork being handled differently than the feds wanted, and that the issue was fixed.
“(The program) saves energy costs for low-income consumers,” Donnellan said. “I think taxpayer dollars have been well spent.”
By Josh Sweigart - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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