Joplin School official responds to audit that says district mismanaged disaster recovery funds

JOPLIN, Mo. – The results of an audit conducted by the Department of Homeland Security says Joplin Schools did not properly handle funds it received for disaster recovery.

Despite some of the audit’s suggestions, which included having FEMA deny some of the funding requests from the district, Dr. Ron Lankford says it didn’t have an impact on the requests. “If you look at the findings it was about that consultant that was hired and then the disadvantaged firms, beyond that, FEMA believed that Joplin was deserving of each dollar that it did get.”

Overall, the audit found there was a significant lack of oversight on the part of Missouri SEMA, and FEMA, when it came to managing the district’s funds. The audit did find that Joplin Schools did not comply with federal procurement regulations for contract provisions and affirmative steps in awarding construction contracts; the district did not comply with federal regulations in awarding the grant management contract; and that the district claimed ineligible costs related to the grant management contract. “If you look at what the criticism of the school there were two major things, one had to do with the employment of a consultant to handle the FEMA stuff, and the other had to do that the bids did not seek disadvantaged firms.”

There were nine recommendations at the end of the report, all directed at the Regional Manager for FEMA. Dr. Lankford says the Office of the Inspector General had two recommendations for the district. “You guys really need to pay attention to two things, make sure you get your consultant, bid it instead of doing the emergency placement, which was legally done, and then it should have been, probably bid which Joplin Schools did not do that, there’s no argument there, and then make sure that your next bid documents dealing with FEMA money reference disadvantaged firms.”

Lankford says looking back, there could have been improvements. “It was a very chaotic time, if you would go back now with the calm that we have now, nine years later, and to sit down and analyze it, it probably could be done different but in a time of crisis, you don’t always get every I dotted or T crossed.”

Click here for more details on the audit.

Read the full audit here.