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Federal Government Audits Some Ocean County Towns

4-4-14

By Christie Duffy
Correspondent

A Federal Audit flagged $690,000 in Little Egg Harbor’s submitted expenses. Citing duplicate entries for employee hours and a lack of documentation. But Little Egg’s Town Administrator Garrett Loesch says they weren’t done working on the final numbers when they were audited.

“They had never been assigned, this audit team had never been assigned mid-stream. It had always been afterwards,” said Loesch.

County officials also say it’s unusual for an audit to be conducted during the process. The Inspector General’s Office would only tell us that it’s up to FEMA to reconcile with grantees. Loesch says Little Egg Harbor has now corrected any errors identified in the audit.

Beach Haven was also flagged — for $3.7 million dollars in unused funds.

Initially, it was estimated it would cost the town $5 million to clean up. But a few weeks into it, they joined a shared services agreement with 16 other towns in Ocean County. Meaning the county would handle all their debris removal and reimbursement needs.

They told FEMA to adjust their estimate down.

“They’re advice to us was, not to re-write the work order. To simply proceed with the existing work order. And that at the end they’d straighten it out,” said Beach Haven Municipal Manager Richard Crane.

A FEMA spokesperson tells NJTV News it did put a hold on the extra money.

The federal audit also questioned Beach Haven’s eligibility for a separate $344,000 due to missing documentation. A big chunk of that money was spent on Seminole Construction, a contractor who cleaned up the debris. Beach Haven has already paid the contractor in full. But, they’ve been unable to get sufficient work records from the company to satisfy the auditors.

“They don’t quibble with the fact that the equipment was here, nor that someone was operating the equipment. Unfortunately, their record-keeping couldn’t say that Joe Smith was in that particular piece of equipment. That’s what they’re having the problem with,” said Crane

He says they’ve contacted the State Attorney General’s Office for help getting the records from the company. Seminole Construction did not return our call.

FEMA says these towns are not being targeted for any specific reason. That they were likely audited first, because the amount of money they spent and that missing documentation can be reconciled for reimbursement.

Neither of these two towns have been fully reimbursed yet. So if the Federal Government decides they don’t deserve some of the money they’ve applied for, they just won’t get it, in the first place. It’s up to FEMA to decide exactly how much they do get, not the federal auditors.