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State Auditor Examining $700K in Charges from Springfield Non-Profit

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BOSTON (WGGB) — A state report indicates that Springfield-based New England Farm Workers Council used hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funds for non-reimbursable expenses.

State Auditor Suzanne Bump released the 36 page audit Tuesday that examined expenses during fiscal years 2010 to 2012.

It found that the Council reportedly failed to ensure that those expenses paid for by the state had adequate, supporting documentation.

Bump’s office notes that without that paperwork, it’s difficult to determine if some $700,000 in expenses were properly reimburseable.

“The money that we found charged to the state contract we found to be reimbursable, could have been used to support other of the New England Farm Worker Council Activities,” Bump told ABC40 in a phone interview.

Bump adds in a statement, “This audit makes a fairly simple point – if you want to do business with the state you follow the state’s rules. Proper documentation of all expenses is absolutely necessary to ensure that public resources are being used for a real public purpose.”

New England Farm Workers Council (NEFWC) provides day care services, job training, and other services for low-income residents on behalf of the state.

According to Bump’s office, among those expenses identified in the report are:

  • $454,871 in salary over three years to the group’s CEO without proper supporting documentation.
  • $162,590 in consulting services without the use of a procurement process or the retention of proper supporting documentation, as required by the state.
  • $41,495 in repair and maintenance services which were not adequately documented or not directly related to the Council’s paid for repair and maintenance services which were inadequately documented or not directly related to NEFWC’s state funded-programs.
  • $35,750 in interest payments on a loan used to buy a building not associated with any of the council’s state-funded programs.
  • $32,377 in unallowable travel expenses to the group’s CEO
  • $11,692 in restaurant charges that weren’t properly documented and/or used for acitivies not tied to state-funded programs

The state also found that some of the consulting payments may have been for lobbying services, which is not allowed by the state.

With regards to the salary expenses, the state adds that the CEO received compensation from state sources that reportedly exceeded limits, was reported as a full-time employee for more than one company, and the CEO’s total compensation was not accurately reported in the Council’s financial filings.

“They said I don’t have time sheets. Like I said before, we used to have time sheets that said Monday through Friday, 8 hours. That would be misleading. I do not work 8 hours a day. I work 7 days a week,” Flores stated.

“The question is not whether NEFWC should have engaged in these activities. It is whether they should have been paid for with state resources,” says Bump.

The state has not yet decided on what they are going to do. One possibility is that the Council could end up reimbursing the state.

However, Flores maintains that none of the more than $700,000 in expenses the audit outlines, is state money that could’ve been used for the programs they run. Instead, Flores feels the state owes them Money.

“My position is at the end, we don’t owe them nothing. Because we have generated extra money for some of those operations,” Flores stated.

He says it amounts to about $2 million, the amount of money Partners raised to supplement money for underfunded state programs.

However, Bump adds that the matter could be resolved by simply filing new financial statements.

Among the recommendations being made by the state are to have the Council cooperate with the state’s Operational Service Division to resolve and improve documentation for these expenses, as well as changing the board membership to include more independent members not related with Council-affiliated organizations.

You can CLICK HERE to read the complete audit.

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