Shannon Shaw Duty
The Justice Department’s Inspector General released an audit on the Nation’s use of three grants from the Office on Violence Against Women in January.
“We found that Osage did not comply with essential award conditions in the areas of internal controls, grant expenditures, including salaries and fringe benefits, grant reporting, property management, and special conditions,” according to the audit, which covered years 2007-2012. “Specifically, we found that weak internal controls resulted in unallowable costs charged to the grants … Overall, we identified $522,552 in net questioned costs.”
The ON Counseling Center, Primary Residential Treatment (PRT) program, and the Nation’s Domestic Violence program all utilize grant money from the Grants to Indian Tribal Governments Program. The grants are to decrease violent crime against Indian women, strengthen tribes’ ability to exercise sovereign authority responding to violent crimes against Indian women, and to ensure perpetrators of violent crimes against Indian women are held accountable.
According to the audit, a total of $1,892,967 was drawn down from the grants 2007-TW-AX-0008, 2009-EG-S6-0029 and 2011-TW-AX-0026, all awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The Nation’s counseling center has had a high turnover rate since 2011 and went years without a director, said Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear. The director for the Counseling Center from 2006-2011 was a woman named Virginia Easley who quit in July 2011 after she stole furniture from the center. Eight months went by and Suzanne Hartness, who was hired in March 2012, filled the vacancy. She left in September 2012. The position was vacant for six months until John Christopher Bell took the position from October to December in 2012.
“So all the people that were in charge during this time period are no longer with us. I’m trying to find out through the rest of the system what checks and balances they had during those times,” Standing Bear said. “It looks like we’ll be paying the price for actions that occurred before 2012 and before. The current director came in September and her name is Brooke Ashlock. The interim director during much of this time was Louis Gray.”
Gray is no longer employed with the Nation.
In terms of oversight of grants awarded to the Nation, that responsibility lies largely with the director, Standing Bear said. The Nation’s Strategic Planning and Project Management department has oversight but not of the day-to-day operations.
“I can tell you that when I first got here, there was not very good coordination between the compliance staff of the strategic planning and project management,” Standing Bear said. “But we have changed those procedures. We are now, every program, now it’s a rule, every grant, every program who has a grant or is working on a grant is required to coordinate with strategic planning and project management, they weren’t doing that before. That’s the number one.”
Problematic areas pointed out in the 24-page audit:
– Weak internal controls. As a result embezzlement occurred in 2011 in the amount of $56,155. The Nation paid the amount back to the DOJ in 2012.
– $60,525 in unsupported salaries and fringe benefits.
– Activity reports were not utilized for employees that split their time working on multiple grants and certifications were not used for employees that work solely on one grant at a time.
– $429,330 in unsupported programmatic costs for Grant No. 2009-EG-S6-0029.
– Unallowable expenditures related to supplies, travel, training, equipment, contractual, rent and other costs.
– Provided direct financial assistance to victims of domestic violence without adhering to Special Condition 21, which requires client eligibility guidelines, a written explanation of the accounting practices it will use to protect client confidentiality and a description of intended use of financial assistance.
– Provided direct financial assistance expenditures such as furniture, rent, utilities and appliances without following Special Condition 21.
– Unallowable costs include purchasing a heating and cooling system, a refrigerator, projectors, rent, late fees and finance charges, and travel costs for a trip that was canceled for which Osage never received a refund.
– Unauthorized payment for a consultant.
– Unallowable purchase of a playhouse for kids, payment for clients rent, cable, pest control, utilities, and other unallowable expenditures.
– Could not verify 60 percent of progress report accomplishments because they could not be found.
– Found that 53 percent of the property items tested were not included in Osage’s inventory system.
– Unable to physically verify 39 percent of property items.
“While many of these expenditures may appear to be reasonable, they were not included in the approved grant budget, Grant Adjustment Notice, or other OVW approval,” according to the audit. “As a result, we questioned $99,526 in unallowable direct cost expenditures charged to the grants …”
The audit notes that after 2011 the Nation significantly improved in its oversight over grant expenditures and may be attributed to new internal controls put into place for Procurement, including the review of transactions prior to payments, having second-level checks, and certifying that payments are in compliance with grant and tribal requirements.
“I am very concerned with the PRT program, our housing program and some of the other programs here in the Nation. That’s an honest answer and I’m working with people on an individual basis with the Human Resources department to get people better trained,” Standing Bear said. “Implementing some nationwide programs to make sure people are doing their jobs as they should. I am reorganizing certain departments to streamline services and trying to get Congress [Osage] to approve some of these changes and I’ve been working on that daily since I’ve been here.”
Ways the Nation has improved upon internal controls:
– Certified Time Sheets: developed time sheet certifications for all federal programs to track time spent on grant projects.
– Property Inventory: the Nation is currently implementing a new property inventory system and previously repaid $56,155 after a director took furniture from the counseling center.
Analysis and summary of actions necessary to close the audit:
- Remedy the $60,525 in unsupported salaries and fringe benefits
- Remedy the $43,371 in remaining unallowable other direct costs
- Remedy the $373,175 in unsupported programmatic costs
- Ensure Osage maintains detailed records in order to provide accurate reporting for the program
- Ensure that Osage includes all property purchased with grant funds be included in the inventory system
- Ensure that Osage adheres to all grant requirements
Standing Bear said ON Treasurer Callie Catcher is working with the DOJ on remedying the issues since many of the unsupported documents and materials were misplaced and found since he took office.
To view the full audit, visit: http://www.justice.gov/oig/reports/2015/g6015005.pdf
Former ON Counseling director charged with sexual battery
Louis Gray, a former case manager for the Nation’s Counseling Center, was charged with felonious sexual battery Dec. 30 for an alleged incident occurring in Ponca City with a 22-year-old woman in his care.
Gray no longer works for the Nation.
Gray, 61, who unsuccessfully ran for Osage Congress in 2010, was booked into the Kay County Jail on Jan. 2 and released on a $15,000 bond. His initial court date was Jan. 6. He is scheduled to appear in Kay County District Court on March 6 at 2 p.m. in Newkirk.
Original Publish Date: 2015-02-11 00:00:00