Federal auditors have cleared Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services of allegations that it improperly spent grants it received between 2009 and 2011 and says the local agency will not have to refund any money.
The agency was told in October 2012 that it might have to repay more than $350,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds because of poor accounting practices, according to a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general report.
However, after government officials worked with the agency to resolve the bookkeeping, it determined the agency could account for every dollar.
According to a Jan. 29 letter from the department’s Health Resources and Service Administration, 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."
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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 underserved patients in rural areas. About $1.5 million went to Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services.
Of the $1.5 million the local agency received, about $1.1 million was spent properly, but auditors initially were unable to tell if that was the case with another $351,220.
The problem, according to the local health agency’s executive director, Roland Gardner, was that the federal government did not instruct his agency to use a separate account for the grant. Instead, the health agency pooled the grant money with matching funds to hire and retain crucial staff, he said.
"They wanted it in a separate account, and although that was not done, the expenditures we could track dollar for dollar," Gardner said.
Gardner said he is glad the ordeal is over and that his organization has changed some of its accounting practices to ensure it never happens again.
Check back with the Island Packet and Beaufort Gazette for more details, and follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allison.