Audit: Nassau in jeopardy of losing grants

Millions of dollars in federal grants received by Nassau County last year had serious compliance problems, some dating back to 2007, that could potentially prevent the county from obtaining those dollars again, according to an audit released Tuesday by Comptroller George Maragos.

The audit found that two-thirds of the 31 federal grant programs tested -- accounting for $60 million -- had major internal deficiencies, including reporting errors on federal spending, and inadequate documentation, employee training and cash management. The county receives $262 million in federal grants annually.

"The future federal funding of these programs depends on the county implementing corrective actions immediately," Maragos said. "The numerous programs our residents rely upon will no longer be in jeopardy if compliance issues are fully addressed."

While federal agencies will not likely seek to reclaim funds previously distributed to the county, they could withhold future dollars if changes are not immediately made, he said.

County Executive Edward Mangano said he has instituted a plan to fix the problems, focused primarily on employee education and training.

"We have implemented corrective actions and will increase oversight and employee training to prevent neglect and abuse from occurring again," Mangano said.

The most serious and frequent deficiencies were found in the Office of Housing and Community Development, where officials failed to properly track grant spending.

In July, Louis Abate, the office's former fiscal manager, was charged with diverting more than $122,000 in federal housing subsidies to his bank account.

The audit, which must be submitted to the federal Office of Management and Budget for review, also uncovered grant management problems at the departments of Health, Social Services, Public Works and Human Services.

Maragos attributed the problems to frequent staff and management turnover in many county departments, resulting in a lack of adequate training. The comptroller said he will follow-up in three months to determine if the county has corrected the problems.

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