Spin Cycle

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ALBANY - The state Health Department has sat on more than $1 million in contributions that New York drivers made to benefit funds for organ donations, autism awareness, diabetes and multiple sclerosis, according to an audit released Tuesday.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said the department failed to put all the donations to use as directed by New Yorkers in their applications for driver’s licenses and vehicle license plates. The biggest lapse was for the Life Pass It On Trust Fund which DiNapoli said had accumulated more than $1 million that hadn’t been used since it was created more than a decade ago.

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Auditors also said the Health Department received $108,225 for the Autism Awareness Fund since 2005 and disbursed just $37,940; received $89,026 for the Drive Out Diabetes Fund and spent $64,293; and collected $35,406 for the Multiple Sclerosis Fund since 2004 and spent $31,000, according to the report.

The state Health Department blamed a private contractor that handles the task and DiNapoli’s auditors.

“The state Department of Health selected a private contractor to take over responsibility of the Donate Life Registry in May,” the department stated. “The comptroller’s office knows this because it’s had the contract since then and has failed to move on it. Instead they chose to issue an outdated audit that, once again, cherry-picks the facts.”

Auditors said: “Department officials have generally taken a passive approach to managing and utilizing special revenue funds, lacking any specific plans and policies for fund management and making little effort to promote the funds or raise awareness of their existence.”

“New Yorkers who tried to help others did not expect their money to sit unused in a bank account,” DiNapoli said. “New York ranks among the lowest nationally in registering organ and tissue donors, yet we’re sitting on $1 million that could make a real difference in the lives of New Yorkers needing an organ transplant. Too many times we’ve found that state has failed to spend the money New Yorkers have given for worthy or lifesaving causes.”

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He found similar results in a 2014 audit that found more than $14 million was built up in six checkoff funds including those for campaigns regarding breast cancer, prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. A 2015 law resulted, requiring faster use of the donations.