- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2005

The state of Missouri failed to spend more than $100 million in first-responder grants in the past two years, prompting Republican Gov. Matt Blunt to order an investigation into all state agencies.

Federal law requires states to disburse or earmark 80 percent of the federal funds to local agencies within 45 days, but Missouri has allocated only $20 million of the $125 million awarded by the Homeland Security Department since the grant program was created.

Now the governor of the “Show Me” state is ordering employees to show him the money.

“It is disturbing to know that funds our first responders and law-enforcement agencies need for training, equipment and anti-terrorism planning efforts have not been spent for the last two years,” Mr. Blunt said.

“We need to end these unacceptable delays and expedite the delivery of these funds to those charged with protecting Missouri families,” Mr. Blunt said.

On Tuesday, all executive offices were ordered to report what funds were received and spent and to provide a list of grant requests, spending plans, and private companies that have asked for funds or are partnering with government agencies to spend the federal dollars.

A spokesman with the Homeland Security Department was asked what happens to the money if it is not spent in the 45-day time frame, but did not return the call with a comment.

The governor’s concerns also include reports that former Missouri Homeland Security Director Tim Daniel, who served under Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, encouraged the state to spend $300,000 for a Web portal from Convergence Communications. After the purchase was completed, Mr. Daniel resigned his state position and took a job with the company.

The portal was supposed to put the entire state on the same emergency alert system, but the system was found to be a duplicate of another system already in place, said Terri Durdaller, the governor’s spokeswoman.

The contract has been rescinded.

“Our administration feels this was a conflict of interest, and we don’t feel that federal dollars were efficiently spent by the previous administration,” Miss Durdaller said.

The governor also questioned the spending of thousands of dollars on biohazard suits for rural areas, where the threat of a biological attack is unlikely.

“These were unnecessary projects, and we are trying to use federal dollars more effectively. That’s why we are going through this process,” Miss Durdaller said.

The investigation coincides with the announcement that federal lawmakers will begin work today on next year’s budget for first responders. The House Committee on Homeland Security begins hearings this morning on President Bush’s fiscal 2006 budget.

If Congress approves this year’s budget request, the Homeland Security Department will distribute record resources and funding of more than $17 billion for local communities and first responders, said acting department chief Adm. James Loy.

Last year, $13 billion was allocated for first responders to train and purchase equipment.

“While the sum of these efforts have indeed made us safer and stronger, we cannot allow past successes and accomplishments to lull us into complacency,” he said after the budget was announced Tuesday.

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