NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An audit of the state Department of Human Services by the Comptroller has called into question management and spending in the children's food program.
Most of the spending questioned in Tuesday's audit involved an $80 million food program intended to provide meals to kids who lack access to nutritious food in Tennessee, according to media outlet reports. It called into question more than 10 percent of the program's annual operating budget.
The audit described multiple violations of federal regulations and basic accounting practices, including examples in which DHS provided cash advances for food purchases to agencies that never requested them.
In one example, DHS provided a $311,993 cash advance to an agency whose entire annual operating budget was $124,000. In another example, an agency receiving an un-asked-for cash advance said it was waiting for DHS to ask for it back.
The audit places responsibility for the oversight failures on DHS management, including commissioner Raquel Hatter.
Spokeswoman Stephanie Jarnagin issued a statement to The Tennessean on Hatter's behalf (http://tnne.ws/1MSy07L ) that said while costs have been questioned, "it does not mean that the questioned costs are specifically the result of fraud, waste or abuse."
In its written responses to the findings in the audit, DHS blames private agencies for failing to keep track of paperwork and a former employee for the cash advances. DHS also disagreed with many of the questioned costs, and said it was up to the federal government to investigate the costs — not the comptroller.
In response to the failures of the DHS food program, state Sen. Jim Tracy has proposed legislation that would require reports to lawmakers every three months on the food programs by the DHS. The measure received approval in the Senate and will be voted on in the House on Thursday.
The audit, a review of all state agencies receiving federal funds, found DHS accounted for 34 of 72 major problems identified across state government. DHS runs more federal programs than any other state agency.