August 16, 2007
DiNapoli: State Agency for the Aging Misspent Federal Aid Dollars
State Office for the Aging (SOFA) officials misspent federal aid dollars on office furniture and out-of-state air travel, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The audit covered the period from October 1, 2004 through September 30, 2006.
The grant funds were designated for SOFA’s Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, which trains and certifies volunteers to investigate and resolve complaints made by or on behalf of residents living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.
“This program is supposed to help protect senior citizens, not buy furniture for an agency deputy director,” DiNapoli said. “Many New Yorkers – particularly the elderly who live on fixed incomes – struggle daily to make ends meet. It’s our job to be sure their tax dollars are spent wisely – and that we’re not jeopardizing scarce federal aid that helps defray the cost of our programs.”
The audit also found that SOFA paid tens of thousands of dollars for research on aging related services by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York at Albany, even though the research was unrelated to the Ombudsman program.
DiNapoli noted that the federal funding agency – the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – has made it clear that this practice cannot be repeated.
The audit found that SOFA inappropriately spent:
The audit recommends that Ombudsman funds be used only according to federal criteria.
The audit also examined the Ombudsman Program’s payroll expenditures, and found they were appropriate and for intended purposes. Officials at SOFA did not respond to the audit’s findings.