Fire Safe Council: No fraud revealed by audit | RecordCourier.com

Fire Safe Council: No fraud revealed by audit

by Kurt Hildebrand

The Nevada Fire Safe Council acknowledges errors in handling federal grants, but points out the report denies finding any fraud.

“The grant funds that have been managed by the Nevada Fire Safe Council have been used to reduce the serious threat of wildfire and to increase community protection,” the statement said.

Federal auditors are recommending that $2.7 million in recovery act grant funds received by the Nevada Fire Safe Council be paid back, and that the council not receive any more grants until new policies are in place.

Fire Safe Council board chairwoman Joan Presley said the grants have funded work that has been credited with saving homes and property.

“The funds expended helped reduce the potential loss of life and property by educating, empowering, and enabling citizens to do defensible space work around their properties,” Presley said.

Grant funds were used to hire local contractors and support individual homeowners in removing flammable fuels in Nevada and at the Lake Tahoe Basin.

“Essentially, poor accounting and fund source tracking procedures were revealed by the OIG investigation,” Presley said. “The funds received by the council were used to support the core mission of the council, community wildfire preparedness, and the community protection goals of our funding partners.”

Presley said the council is working with the inspector general and the forest service to provide all the requested information and documentation.

“When the grant management deficiencies were first revealed, the Nevada Fire Safe Council took immediate action to begin implementation of the necessary corrective actions and to overhaul their internal systems to establish control measures and grant tracking procedures that comply with federal requirements. It is also clear that oversight and proper review of financial procedures by grant agencies was deficient.”

Presley said the council’s accomplishments should not be overshadowed by the findings contained in the report.

Auditors received a hotline complaint in July 2011 that the council was not conducting fair bids when hiring contractors to do work related to the recovery act,” according to the report.

“Our review of the complaint concluded that the council had awarded contracts associated with the recovery act grant in a noncompetitive manner,” auditors said.