September 2, 2011

An Audit By The D.C. Inspector General Slams D.C.'s HIV/AIDS Government Grant Program! AWFUL!

The Washington Examiner
written by By: Freeman Klopott
August 9, 2011

An audit of the District's $10 million grant program for HIV/AIDS residential services has verified serious flaws in the city's oversight of the dollars it doled out.

The Department of Health's HIV/AIDS administration's poor monitoring allowed at least one grant recipient to receive reimbursements for an employee who didn't exist, among other issues.

Many of the woes that have plagued the office occurred under former director Debra Rowe. The FBI has previously said it was investigating accusations of health care fraud that allegedly happened during Rowe's watch, although the U.S. Attorney's office declined to say on Tuesday whether the investigation remained open. Rowe now works for a company - run by a former drug kingpin - that she funded as a city employee.

The audit by the D.C. inspector general "is sadly just another documentation of the legacy of Debra Rowe," D.C. Councilman David Catania said in a statement to The Washington Examiner on Tuesday.

Oversight of the grant program has greatly improved, which has helped dry-up HIV/AIDS funding for groups like Miracle Hands, Catania said. Miracle Hands was created by Cornell Jones, who spent nine years in prison for running an open-air drug market in Northeast during the 1980s. Rowe is currently Miracle Hands' executive director, the company's website says.

Rowe did not return calls for comment.

Soon after she was fired in April 2008, studies found that the HIV/AIDS infection rate had reached epidemic levels in D.C., with 3 percent of the city's population infected.

The inspector general's audit, though, focused its attention on Hill's Community Residential Support Services. Hill's was supposed to provide homes for people infected with HIV/AIDS so they could stay off the street and decrease the risk of infecting others. It picked up more than $1 million under Rowe's watch, which started in 2004. It was cut off in 2009 and has since shutdown.

But the audit found the Hill's funding should have been denied earlier because it didn't meet the terms of the grant. It added that the AIDS/HIV administration "was aware of [Hill's] deficiencies in complying with the terms... but continued to reimburse [Hill's]."

According to the audit, Hill's never paid employees' federal and state taxes, and in at least one case had the city reimburse it nearly $4,000 for an employee who didn't exist. City officials, meanwhile, failed to keep track of Hill's payroll and expenditures, writing about $165,000 in reimbursement checks for expenses that had no receipts, the audit said. The D.C. grant monitor even signed off on paying back Hill's for veterinarian costs for a cat after Hill's said the animal was needed to keep vermin away.

"[Hill's] should have hired an exterminator," the audit said.

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