Audit: Terrorism grants improperly overseen

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CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Nearly $400,000 worth of grants meant to protect Wyoming from terrorist attacks was improperly overseen by the state’s Office of Homeland Security, according to a federal audit.

The audit by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General examined grant management from 2010 to 2012 and found that the state office was not properly holding law enforcement and other agencies to account for how they spent federal grants.

The Casper Star-Tribune reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1o4s5la ) that the improper spending totaled $393,752 out of the $15 million in Homeland Security grants distributed in Wyoming from 2010 to 2012 as part of a federal initiative to beef up local communities’ emergency preparedness after the 9/11 attacks.

Such spending in the state peaked in 2010 at $6.61 million, but it slid to $2.8 million in 2012.

The state office also failed to make sure those who needed money the most received it, and the office did not develop targets for improving security preparedness, according to the audit.

Kelly Ruiz, a spokeswoman for the state's homeland security office, said the staff has been working with grant recipients and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to answer questions raised by the audit and has made a lot of progress gathering needed information.

“All in all, we’re comfortable,” she said, noting that the audit was the first the office has received from the federal department’s inspector general. “It’s always good to get your practices reviewed and make sure you’re on the right path - as uncomfortable as that may be.”

About half the improperly spent grant money, $211,942, was paid to Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy personnel working with multiple grants without proper accounting of their hours, according to the audit. Academy officials directed questions to the state's homeland security office.

Albany County spent $115,004 in grants to pay for a new siren notification system, but the state homeland security office didn’t review the purchase as required, according to the audit. The county also paid $8,788 in grant money toward the salary of its emergency management coordinator, which is against federal rules for how much of grant money can pay for salaries.

The county was short funds to pay for the coordinator, and the state office said it was willing to help, Albany County Commission Chairman Tim Sullivan said. “We sat down and talked to them, and they made that concession that they would help us with the salary,” he said.

Wyoming’s homeland security office largely agreed with the inspector general’s findings, saying in a written response that it is trying to implement a stronger grant-tracking system and renew a state homeland security strategy in cooperation with FEMA.

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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