The Seattle Human Services Department (HSD) failed to track hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants in 2013, according to a recent report from the Washington State Auditor.
HSD received $17.5 million from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2013 for homelessness assistance programs.
According to a Sept. 30 report from the Washington State Auditor, HSD’s records fell short in accounting for at least $662,182 the organization spent in federal funding. Another $2.65 million is likely questionable, according to the report.
The state auditor’s report said that HSD did not support every payment with adequate documentation, did not verify the information it received from outside agencies and did not properly monitor how other city departments use some of the funds.
This is the fourth consecutive year the auditor’s office found such problems.
The auditor found that HSD often had a single employee working on selecting a provider, negotiating a contract, allocating the funding and monitoring whether the agency complies with the contract. Some of the roles should be managed by different staff members, according to the report.
HSD will verify the questioned costs and try to recover funds if necessary by January 2015.
The department is also developing a new monitoring manual and adjusting job classifications to avoid repeating the problem.
“I acknowledge the audit findings regarding the Human Services Department and take them seriously,” Interim HSD Director John Okamoto said in a statement to Real Change. “We have submitted an action plan to make corrective measures to address the concerns raised in the audit and to institute better performance and increase transparency within the department.”
HSD has had high turnover in leadership over the last several years. Okamoto is HSD’s fifth director since 2008 and the third interim director. Okamoto took over at HSD this summer, replacing Catherine Lester, who was also working on an interim basis.
Mayor Ed Murray looked for a permanent director earlier this year, but put the search on hold until 2015.
Okamoto was hired to stabilize the department, Murray said in August (“Seattle’s Human Services Department gets another leader — for the moment,” RC, Aug. 13).