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WIVB Story on Federal Audit

County leaders fire back after audit

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The U.S. Inspector General's Office is standing behind an audit calling for Erie County to pay back more than $48 million to the federal government.

The Inspector General's Office is now saying Erie County did not provide the paper work to justify federal dollars used for clean-up after the Surprise Storm of October 2006. County officials are livid. 

"That is a meritless claim," said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

Erie County says it has plenty of proof that federal dollars were properly used to hire companies to help the county recover from the devastating 2006 storm that dropped up to two feet of snow in less than 12 hours, causing tree limbs to snap, taking down power lines.

Poloncarz said, "We have boxes upon boxes, reams of documents that truthfully they went through for months that shows exactly were the money was spent."

The Inspector General's audit claims that Erie County did not comply with federal grant regulations. That noncompliance involved $39.4 million in cleanup contracts awarded, and $9 million in costs that were "inadequately supported."

Federal auditors are saying documentation was not made available to properly show how grant money was used.

Office of Inspector General Acting Public Affairs Director Bill Hillburg stated, "We only base our findings on the documentation that's made available to us."

Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychjaliw countered, "The federal audit was sloppy, period. They didn't really give the county a chance to find and retrieve a lot of these records, and it's my understanding that the county has since done so."

The audit says there are a total of $48.5 million of ineligible and unsupported costs that Erie county should pay back. The county says most of the audit was based on an older, outdated law that said clean-up efforts should bidded out, not necessarily to local contractors.

Poloncarz said, "You should be using local business so that you help invigorate the economy after a disaster."

The Inspector General's Office now concedes that preference can be given to local contractors after a disaster.

Source: WIVB
Rich Newberg
Published : Monday, 04 Mar 2013
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