Audit of Joplin Schools finds mismanagement of $187.3 million in FEMA grant funds

Joplin High School Damaged In 2011 Tornado

Joplin High School – 2011

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Department of Homeland Security says Joplin Schools inadequately managed $187.3 million in FEMA grant funds. The Federal agency completed its audit in June.

As of December 2017, Missouri had given Joplin Schools $152.7 million in FEMA grant funds for damages caused by the May 22, 2011 tornado. According to the DHS, Joplin Schools claimed $218.5 million in disaster-related costs, which is $65.8 million more than the FEMA award. The DHS states that it did the audit to determine whether Joplin Schools “accounted for and expended FEMA disaster grant funds according to Federal regulations and FEMA guidelines.”

Joplin Schools has 90 days after the audit’s findings were released (June 19, 2020) to respond with a plan for the DHS recommendations. KOAM is speaking with district officials today, Aug. 11, 2020 and will have more on KOAM News this evening.

The DHS released the following summary of what they found in the audit:

Joplin Schools did not account for and expend $187.3 million of $218.5 million of the requested Federal share of grant funds according to Federal regulations and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines when it awarded 146 contracts for non-exigent work. Specifically, Joplin Schools:

  • did not comply with Federal procurement regulations for contract provisions and affirmative steps in awarding construction contracts;
  • did not comply with Federal procurement regulations in awarding its grant management contract; and
  • claimed ineligible direct administrative costs related to its grant management contract.

This occurred because Joplin School officials were either unaware of or did not understand procurement regulations. Joplin School officials also disregarded Missouri’s authority and relied heavily on the advice of their grant management contractor.

Improper management and oversight of the grant award further put the Federal funds at risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. Specifically, Joplin Schools did not comply with administrative requirements of its subgrant agreement. Missouri did not enforce program and administrative requirements or impose restrictions on Joplin Schools for noncompliance. Additionally, FEMA’s oversight was limited and passive, and it did not hold Missouri  accountable for effectively managing Joplin Schools’ subgrant activities. As a result of these collective deficiencies, we questioned Joplin Schools’ costs of $187.3 million, which include ineligible direct administrative
costs.

You can read the full audit here.