Under the Dome

Audit: Lack of oversight in program for the blind

A program that helps blind people set up businesses has spent $29 million since 2000, but operates without goals or performance measures, according to a state audit.

The Business Enterprise Program uses federal money and set-aside fees collected from the food and vending businesses they establish. Program funds cover start-up purchases, equipment maintenance, and monitoring.

Blind people are trained to run the businesses and are awarded sites based on competitive bids. They run the businesses as independent contractors, according to the audit.

The audit said that 80 people have been trained since 2000, and of those, 53 have been placed in businesses. Since the program has not established any goals or performance measures, there's no way for managers to know if they are maximizing vendors' potential, the audit said.

Additionally, program oversight was lacking, the audit said. More than half the scheduled oversight activities weren't performed.

The state Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the program, agreed that oversight needed to be strengthened. The program director has resigned, DHHS said, and the Division of Services for the Blind will develop a "tracking tool" to ensure reviews and inspections are performed.