An audit of the state's Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management presented to the Post Audit Subcommittee on Sunday, revealed the agency did not apply for $12 million of available federal funding for staffing and training needs.
The agency also failed to draw down more than $8 million of other federal grant money available, much of which was owed to local county and city governments, according to the audit.
Nick Browning, a senior researcher with the Legislative Auditor's office told the committee that DHSEM has not established an effective internal control environment over the administration of federal grants.
Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred warned lawmakers that DHSEM has been under heightened scrutiny since early 2016 because of a failure to meet the federal government's grant requirements. Leaders charged with overseeing that agency told lawmakers in response that they were unaware that the Federal Emergency Management Agency started penalizing the state with a "manual reimbursement" policy.
DHSEM is required to submit a yearly financial audit to the Division of Finance, by a certain deadline. This is required of state agencies that receive a large sum of federal dollars. According to Browning, DHSEM was one of the last agencies to submit its financial information over the last several years. Twice in the past several years, the agency submitted its information more than 170 days late.
According to the audit, DHSEM’s former director noted the agency did have adequate staff to complete these tasks in a timely manner, and that he did not hire additional staff because of the State’s hiring freeze and the length of time it takes the Division of Personnel to process hiring actions. However, the audit also states that funding for hiring staff is available under the Public Assistance grants program.
That money, dollars which came 100 percent from the federal government and does not require a match from the state, can pay for salary, benefits and rent for office space. Of the $13.8 million that was available to DHSEM, the audit found that the state only applied for and spent about $1.1 million.