Jindal administration disputes federal watchdog recommendation

The Jindal administration disputed a federal watchdog’s recommendation Tuesday that it return nearly a quarter of a million dollars used for childcare programs.

The secretary of the state Department of Children and Family Services, Suzy Sonnier, said in a prepared statement that the money was spent appropriately. The federal government contends the state needs to improve its record keeping.

“We have adequate tracking controls, including new technology and software. We had these controls in place when the expenditures were made and have also made them stronger over the last year,” Sonnier said.

At issue is how the state Department of Children and Family Services financed child care programs. States must spend a certain level of funding on the programs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General found problems with Louisiana’s explanations for how $221,578 was spent during the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years.

The office was satisfied with the state’s use of another $18 million in federal funding.

“The State agency generally complied with Federal requirements ...” the inspector general’s office wrote. “However, the State agency did not comply with the Federal requirements for the use of $221,578.”

What the office found is that the state overstated fund expenditures and submitted spreadsheets that contained errors. Essentially, the state agency encountered a shortfall in the child care programs and shuffled money from another area to cover the gap.

The Office of Inspector General said the state did not provide enough explanation on the accounting shift and neglected to have adequate resources to monitor the allocation and reporting.

In her official response, Sonnier disputed the findings and recommendations. She wrote that the Jindal administration did not improperly claim or overstate expenditures.

“DCFS does not concur with the recommendation that the State refund said funding to the Federal Government,” Sonnier wrote.

The Office of Inspector General countered that its findings and recommendations were valid.