• Federal investigators now looking into audit of city's jobs program

    By: Rachel Stockman


    ATLANTA - Officials with the U.S. Department of Labor are looking into a scathing internal audit of the mayor's jobs program, which found evidence of potential fraud.

    Leslie Ward, the city auditor, said she turned over evidence of potential fraud or abuse at the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency, or AWDA, to the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor.

    AWDA is predominately funded by the federal Workforce Investment Act. The agency, which is a bureau of Mayor Kasim Reed's office, is tasked with helping put Atlantans back to work.

    In 2012, federal appropriations to the agency totaled $9.6 million.

    The OIG conducts investigations around the country, looking into criminal wrongdoing by agencies that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    An OIG spokesperson would neither confirm nor deny that there is an investigation.

    However, when Channel 2 Action news filed an open records request to obtain copies of what was turned over to the inspector general, Channel 2's Rachel Stockman received an email for the city auditor denying her request citing, "an ongoing investigation into the matter."

    The audit cites poor job tracking of workers and employers, incomplete records and inadequate oversight of personally identifiable information maintained by the agency.

    John Jupin, a former federal agent, worked for the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Labor for 19 years.

    During his time, he investigated the program, which he said has significant internal problems.

    "The biggest problem is you have all this money and you have a lack of control, you don't have anybody watching it," Jupin told Channel 2's Rachel Stockman.

    The report also noted that more than half of the agency's clients reside outside city limits. Jupin believes that both criminal and civil charges should be considered by the U.S. Attorney's office.

    "If you enroll  ineligible participants, you can be charged under title 18 section 665, its right out there," Jupin said.

    Sonji Jacobs Dade, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed, sent Stockman a statement that said, "The city conducted an audit of AWDA last year. Through the course of the audit, some concerns were raised. The city's auditor proactively referred the audit's findings to the IG's office.

    "There is no internal investigation going on at this time. Pursuant to the findings in the audit, we have better tracking procedures in place and are engaging an independent consultant to recommend strategic direction and organizational changes."

    "We are very concerned about the audit; they raised some very serious issues," Atlanta council member Michael Julian Bond told Stockman.

    Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, is a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety which has oversight over the federal money allocated to programs, like Atlanta's Workforce Development Agency.

    Isakson said in a statement, "I am glad that there are systems in place to detect fraud and abuse of the system, and I await the findings of the IG report. Those found guilty of defrauding the federal government of taxpayer dollars should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

    "I'm pleased that the Senate HELP Committee voted to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act on July 31 because it would bring more transparency and accountability to the federal funding of these programs."

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