Federal auditors have cleared Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services of allegations that it improperly spent grants it received between 2009 and 2011, and the agency will not have to refund any money.
More than $351,000 was in jeopardy after the agency was told in October it might have to repay American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds because of poor accounting, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report.
However, after government officials worked with the agency to resolve bookkeeping issues, it determined the nonprofit health-services organization could account for every dollar.
Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services is "able to account fully for the use of funds and able to demonstrate that the funds were used to advance project goals," according to a Jan. 29 letter from the federal health department's Health Resources and Service Administration.
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The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $2.5 billion to the Health Resources and Service Administration to create jobs and improve health services for uninsured and under-served patients in rural areas.
About $1.5 million went to Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services. Of that $1.5 million, federal auditors said they couldn't determine whether $351,220 had been spent properly.
The problem, according to the local agency's executive director, Roland Gardner, was that the federal government did not instruct his agency to use a separate account for the grant money.
The grants were also not large enough to meet a growing demand for health services, he said. Instead, the agency pooled the grant money with matching funds to hire and retain staff, which included a new dentist and a nurse practitioner, Gardner said.
"We tracked every dollar that went in and out," he said.
The Jan. 29 letter confirms the local agency provided documentation that the grants were spent to hire and retain staff and that personnel costs exceeded the grant amounts. All accounting issues and recommendations "have been satisfactorily resolved," the letter says.
Gardner says he is glad the ordeal is over, and his agency has made changes to its accounting practices to keep it from happening again. He said the agency has been "a steward of federal dollars for more than 40 years," but the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants "were something new for us."