Audit critical of Oklahoma’s use of education relief funds

OKLAHOMA Town — A federal audit report sharply criticizes Oklahoma officials for a deficiency of transparency, oversight and accountability in the use of coronavirus reduction resources that were being intended for schooling.

The point out, which received virtually $40 million in pandemic help for the Governor’s Unexpected emergency Education Aid, or GEER, Fund, has currently returned extra than $919,000 that was unspent from the method.

The U.S. Section of Education’s Office of Inspector Typical report dated Monday suggests the condition return almost $653,000 additional that was used on non-education and learning relevant goods these kinds of as televisions and Xbox gaming programs by family members that been given grants. The doc also calls for the condition to audit an additional $5.4 million for doable refund of misspent money, and produce improved management and interior controls of the expending.

“Oklahoma could not help its said procedures for awarding resources to suitable entities that ended up possibly most appreciably impacted by the coronavirus, as decided by the Point out, or considered essential for carrying out crisis academic solutions, supplying childcare and early childhood training, delivering social and emotional assist, or protecting education-associated work opportunities,” according to the report.

“As a result, Oklahoma lacks assurance that its awards to 3 entities below these initiatives … aligned with the function of the GEER grant fund,” the report stated.

A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, Kate Vesper explained the report is staying reviewed.

“The governor is fully commited to transparency and accountability in state authorities,” Vesper mentioned. “The state has been proactive in monitoring and making sure correct use of Oklahoma taxpayer bucks, and an inside audit was initiated a number of months back, that is ongoing for the Oklahoma GEER cash.”

The state blamed ClassWallet, the contractor hired to administer the programs, but that was rejected by the OIG.

“(The state) did not consider edge of an readily available ClassWallet inside handle choice, nor did it complete a critique of the initiative’s expenses,” according to the report. “As the recipient of the GEER grant cash, Oklahoma was liable for ensuring that its grant resources ended up utilized adequately.”

The inside command possibility could have been utilised to restrict expenses to academic-associated only goods, the report explained.

The OIG described that $8 million in GEER resources allotted to the Oklahoma State Department of Education “aligned with the reason of the CARES Act to support” instructional systems.

The OIG reported Oklahoma has taken some corrective measures, but has not dealt with suggestions that it give documentation or a comprehensive written explanation of the approach employed to award the grants.