Under the Dome

Feds want $50,000 in public health grants repaid

A federal audit of the state’s use of public health grants, citing state hiring of vendors without contracts, concluded that about $50,000 was misspent and should be repaid.

The state Department of Health and Human Services, in its official response to the audit, said it would make sure contracts are established before speakers are paid. The recommendation to refund the money would be “further reviewed and investigated,” the state said.

From 2010 to 2013, the federal government, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distributed $668 million to states for prevention, wellness and public health programs. North Carolina received $40 million, more than any other state except one.

The Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a report released Monday, said it selected 135 state transactions to examine, accounting for $3.4 million in spending. It also examined 156 transactions by the Appalachian District County Health Department and the Pitt County Health Department totaling about $850,000.

Nine state transactions, totaling $27,320, for training, travel, a severance payment and office supplies were not allowable, the report said. The state paid a consulting firm $19,000 for training sessions, but did not have a contract with the vendor. The state paid fees higher than those allowed under personal services contracts for training, consultation and other services.

DHHS also paid $3,300 to an individual hired without a contract to provide conflict resolution training. The fee was based on a $75 an hour rate, more than the DHHS allowed maximum.

Four local health department expenses for salaries, office supplies and computer equipment, totaling $23,165, were not allowable, the audit said.

In a written response to the audit dated November 2015, DHHS Secretary Rick Brajer said that the Division of Public Health Prevention and Public Health Fund policy section relied on conference authorization forms rather than obtaining the proper contracts.

Brajer said the agency will strengthen its monitoring of grant spending it does not directly authorize.