Raleigh, N.C. — The Commerce Department did not adequately monitor how $80 million worth of economic development grant money was spent by 20 nonprofits during fiscal 2011, according to a report issued Thursday by the State Auditor's Office.
The audit looked at grants directed as part of the state budget between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. It found that the department did not follow its own "grant-risk assessment" policy for this group of grants, nor did it properly track how the money was spent and ensure that it went to its intended purposes.
"None of this information is being verified. It's not audited. It's not confirmed," State Auditor Beth Wood said. "It's just a piece of paper with a report."
In its formal response, the Commerce Department says it provides reports to the General Assembly but points out that the money has been directed by legislative fiat.
Department spokesman Tim Crowley echoed that, saying the agency only distributes the money and doesn't determine who gets it.
"The department does not make the funding decisions," Crowley said in a statement to WRAL News. "Each recipient of state aid is required by law to complete and submit an annual report to the General Assembly each year that includes program activities, objectives, and accomplishments, itemized expenditures and funding sources and financial statements."
Typically, money is set aside for specific nonprofit grant recipients in the annual budget bill. The Commerce Department administers the grant, but the question here seems to be whether it has any responsibility to more closely monitor the direct funding that lawmakers have ordered.
"We’re not saying anything was misspent. The problem is, nobody knows because nobody is looking," Wood said.
Accountability is at issue, she said, and the department needs to follow its own policies.
"We're in one of the toughest economic situations that the state and nation has ever seen. So, not to have accountability or policies and procedures in place and followed to make sure every dime we spend is being spent for the intended purpose and prudently is very disheartening," she said.
The list of grants examined include:
|N.C. Indian Economic Development||$99,000|
|Research Triangle Institute||$482,530|
|Research Triangle Regional||$489,585|
|North Carolina Eastern Region||$489,990|
|Charlotte Regional Partnership||$558,732|
|Southeastern NC Regional EDC||$623,842|
|Piedmont Triad Partnership||$658,667|
|Land Loss Prevention||$682,704|
|High Point Furniture Market||$778,252|
|Northeastern NC Regional EDC||$868,725|
|Partnership for Defense||$916750|
|NC Association of CDCs||$946,362|
|Western NC Regional EDC||$1,127,559|
|NC Institute for Minority Economic Development||$2,429,296|
|NC Minority Support Center||$3,742,974|
|NC Community Development||$4,518,844|
|Biofuels Center of NC||$4,825,000|
|Wake Forest University Health||$9,650,000|
|NC Biotechnology Center||$9,650,000|
|North Carolina Rural Economic||$27,220,575|
Source: NC State Auditor