DENVER – Three city agencies managing grant funds need to improve how they manage on-time reporting requirements, or they could risk losing those funds, according to two new audits out this month from Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA.
Our office completed an audit of the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant and an audit of federal Employment Services Cluster grants. While all transactions tested in both audits were allowable, we did identify late reports and other smaller areas of concern. Losing federal funding due to late reporting is rare, but every funding source is important.
“Our city budget is tight, and we can’t risk losing any funding sources right now,” Auditor O’Brien said. “Accuracy and timeliness need to be given enough priority or we could jeopardize these grant funds in future years.”
Federal regulations require grantees to file reports regularly so that federal officials — and sometimes state officials serving as a pass-through — can track how grant dollars are spent.
Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant:
The Denver Police and Sheriff’s departments submitted several grant reports late. Specifically, the Police Department submitted five of 21 reports late and the Sheriff’s Department submitted seven of nine reports late.
This grant program provides federal funds for states, tribes, and local governments with critical funding necessary to support a wide range of program areas — including work for victim services, anti-trafficking, and adult diversion. As with all grant funds, the money can be used only for the purposes approved as part of the grant and it cannot be moved to any other city agency or program.
Most of the late reports identified in our audit were not too delayed. They ranged between one day and 20 days late. However, two from the police and one from the sheriff were two to three months behind schedule.
Denver Police officials blame the abrupt loss of their grant administrator and competing priorities for remaining staff. Sheriff Department officials say grant requirements just get lower priority compared to other work, in addition to concerns they have about understaffing in their finance department.
By not submitting reports on time, federal and state governments cannot monitor grant-related activities in a timely manner to ensure they comply with applicable federal requirements and that they achieve performance expectations.
“Accountability is important on all levels, even when it comes to relatively small dollar amounts or small details in our process,” Auditor O’Brien .
Employment Services Cluster Grants:
In this audit, our team found five late reports out of seven. They were all between one day and 14 days late. Denver Economic Development & Opportunity, which manages the grant requirements, blamed technology issues. When this happens, the city agency lets the state know about reporting delays.
Our audit also found one case where travel costs for a conference were not correctly documented, although the costs were allowable. Our team found two transactions for a data analytics conference were approved by management, but the justification for using grant funds was not documented.
Inadequate documentation could result in a penalty for improper use of grant funds or in the office not receiving future funds.
This cluster of grants allows the city to provide area residents — including local veterans and veterans with disabilities, in particular — with career guidance and job training and also to help them find jobs.
“City agencies are wise to take advantage of opportunities for federal funding,” Auditor O’Brien said. “We need to keep technology, staffing challenges, or poor documentation from causing us to lose those opportunities.”