Nebraska has 30 days to repay $22 million in federal aid after failing to show that it was properly spent.
The demand to repay funds is the result of a “bungled” attempt at privatizing child welfare services, the auditor’s office said in a harsh statement on Wednesday.
“Time and time again, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has squandered millions in State and Federal dollars,” auditor Mike Foley, a Republican running for governor, said in the statement. “The agency’s refusal to adhere to sound business practices for the proper expenditure funds will now result in Nebraska taxpayers having to pick up considerably more of the cost for its foster care program.”
The demand for repayment was made in a pair of letters to the state from the federal Administration for Children & Families. Among its findings was the fact that Nebraska had allegedly failed to review payments made under the program. There was insufficient review of payments to contractors, who had been known to give foster parents as little as half of the amount requested for such payments from the state.
Nebraska DHHS CEO Kerry Winterer said in a statement that the problems with documentation have been taken care of and the state may not be on the hook for the full $22 million.
“We believe we can provide information that will change the amount owed, and we believe it will be considerably less,” he said.
The state was asked to make a similar repayment of $3.2 million in August 2012.