Audit critical of Oklahoma’s use of education relief funds

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OKLAHOMA City — A federal audit report sharply criticizes Oklahoma officials for a deficiency of transparency, oversight and accountability in the use of coronavirus reduction resources that have been supposed for education.

The state, which acquired approximately $40 million in pandemic assistance for the Governor’s Crisis Education and learning Reduction, or GEER, Fund, has currently returned extra than $919,000 that was unspent from the plan.

The U.S. Office of Education’s Office of Inspector Common report dated Monday endorses the condition return just about $653,000 a lot more that was used on non-education and learning connected items these kinds of as televisions and Xbox gaming systems by households that acquired grants. The document also calls for the point out to audit a further $5.4 million for feasible refund of misspent money, and develop improved management and interior controls of the investing.

“Oklahoma could not help its said procedures for awarding resources to qualified entities that were being either most drastically impacted by the coronavirus, as identified by the State, or deemed important for carrying out crisis academic solutions, providing childcare and early childhood education, providing social and emotional support, or guarding education-connected employment,” according to the report.

“As a consequence, Oklahoma lacks assurance that its awards to a few entities beneath these initiatives … aligned with the purpose of the GEER grant fund,” the report stated.

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

“The governor is dedicated to transparency and accountability in condition govt,” Vesper reported. “The state has been proactive in monitoring and ensuring proper use of Oklahoma taxpayer bucks, and an inner audit was initiated several months back, that is ongoing for the Oklahoma GEER funds.”

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

“(The condition) did not take advantage of an obtainable ClassWallet interior handle selection, nor did it conduct a evaluation of the initiative’s expenses,” in accordance to the report. “As the receiver of the GEER grant resources, Oklahoma was liable for making certain that its grant funds had been used adequately.”

The inner manage alternative could have been applied to restrict expenses to academic-relevant only items, the report mentioned.

The OIG described that $8 million in GEER resources allotted to the Oklahoma State Section of Training “aligned with the function of the CARES Act to support” educational courses.

The OIG mentioned Oklahoma has taken some corrective ways, but has not resolved recommendations that it provide documentation or a comprehensive published explanation of the procedure applied to award the grants.