by: Aaron Diamant Updated:ATLANTA,None —
A scathing audit slamming a state agency has a popular local charity caught in the middle.
The audit criticizes how the Georgia Department of Human Services tracked millions of Federal stimulus dollars -- grant money for important programs.
Auditors were particularly concerned about payments and purchases for one program run by the United Way of Greater Atlanta.
President Milton Little told Channel 2 Investigative reporter Aaron Diamant he he knew the Fresh Start program would face scrutiny.
"We did all that we could to make sure that we passed muster," said Little
The year-long program was funded by Federal grants that paid out more than $20 million for emergency housing and utility assistance to 17,000 families.
"With that much money, we were always worried about fraud," Little said. "We were worried about a lot of things."
However, the audit found the program paid out more than $43,000 in duplicate payments, because of bad oversight.
Auditors wrote, "DHS failure to perform any subrecipient monitoring resulted in over payments to recipients, which may need to be repaid to the Federal Awarding Agency using State funds."
"There were a lot of people that you find with the same first name, same last name, and so there were a lot of little things that happened that would account for some of those errors," explained Little.
Auditors also questioned why DHS allowed the United Way to spend more than $25,000 on new computers, which auditors said could have been leased for half that."
Auditors noted, "DHS failed to follow the state's computer leasing policy when it reimbursed united way."
DHS told auditors it disagreed. Still, DHS officials refused to speak with Channel 2 on camera about the issues raise by auditors.
A DHS spokesperson sent Diamant an email saying, "It is the department's goal to be a worthy steward of taxpayer dollars."
Little said even though the money auditors questioned was only a fraction of the overall program cost, there were lessons learned.
"We probably could have been a little bit more focused than we were," Little said.
Again, the review of the Fresh Start program is just one part of the audit that found major book-keeping problems inside DHS. DHS has already admitted to auditors it needs to do better and is making changes.
Meantime, Little said some of the over payments have already been returned.