Dept. of Safety returning $112K in misspent fed forfeiture funds

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security had $112,614 in inappropriate spending on food and catering that it received from federal forfeiture funds, according to a U.S. Department of Justice audit. Department officials say they will  reimburse the federal government for the questioned expenditures.

The audit covered the federal fiscal years 2014 through 2017 (basically October of by regular calendar, from October of 2014 through 0 December of 2016), a period when the Tennessee department spent $1,118,514 in “equitable distribution” funds from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Excerpt:

Equitable sharing revenues represent a share of the proceeds from the forfeiture of assets seized in the course of certain criminal investigations. In determining whether the Department of Safety complied with applicable equitable sharing guidelines in accounting for and using these funds, we identified several areas of improvement, including its methods of accounting and oversight of equitable sharing funds.

 Specifically, the Department of Safety expended $112,614 in equitable shared funds for unallowable catering, luncheon, banquet ticket, and retail food expenditures. Consequently, we question the $112,614. The Department also had no procedures for tracking and reconciling equitable sharing requests to receipts and had no separately designated account for expenditures.

Additionally, we found that the Department submitted Equitable Sharing Agreement and Certification Reports for FY 2014 to FY 2016 that were not signed by Department of Safety or State of Tennessee officials, and that the FY 2014 report was submitted 19 days late.

In a letter to DOJ dated Aug. 28 and included in the audit, David Purkey, commissioner of the Tennessee department, concurs with all recommendations in the audit and says the wrongfully spent funds will be reimbursed. Purkey added:

 It is important to note that the expenditures were for food and ticket expenses associated with allowable law enforcement banquets and award ceremonies. However, the Department’s understanding of allowable versus unallowable costs associated with such events was incorrect. The Department has corrected its understanding and will ensure only allowable costs are submitted for reimbursement moving forward.

Note: The full audit report is HERE. Hat tip to Tennessee Star, which has a report on the audit HERE.

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