TULSA, Okla. - The Justice Department is freezing funds of Big Brothers Big Sisters after reports that the organization overpaid consultants, failed to track taxpayer funds it passed on to affiliates and kept sloppy financial records.
Fox News says the Inspector General's report on the Philadelphia-based youth mentoring organization found no criminal wrongdoing and did not identify specific waste on a large scale, it determined the charity's books were such a mess that it was impossible to tell how nearly $20 million earmarked for helping tribal, military and other at-risk adolescents was spent.
"As a result of these weaknesses," the federal auditors said they could not tell how some $19.5 million federal grants awarded between 2009 and 2011 was spent, and they recommended freezing some $3.7 million that has not yet been paid out. The agency followed through on the recommendation by freezing the funds.
BBBS declined to be interviewed but released a written statement to KRMG. It reads:
200,000 children in the United States benefit from their one-to-one mentoring relationship with a Big Brother or Big Sister; approximately 100,000 children are on waiting lists across the country hoping to be matched with one of our mentors. The need for one-to-one mentoring is greater than ever. Our partnership with the Department of Justice (DOJ) helps us reach more at-risk children, many of whom live in areas underserved by youth development programs.
Specifically, DOJ issued three grants between 2009 and 2011 that allowed Big Brothers Big Sisters to mentor nearly 17,000 children in 60 “at risk” communities across the country. In fact, we exceeded the DOJ program objective for at-risk mentoring matches made by 22% -- reaching an additional 3,062 children.
In accordance with our own internal processes, Big Brothers Big Sisters retains highly qualified independent firms to audit all of our grant administration and financial management systems. No material concerns were identified by either the independent auditors or DOJ’s own program office desk reviews. Furthermore, the DOJ audit did not identify any findings of intentional misuse or misdirection of federal funds.
While our work in serving at-risk children was never compromised, we are disappointed that we fell short in meeting the procedural guidelines set by DOJ. The success of the programs in no way absolves us of our own responsibility to be fully compliant. To that end, new financial personnel are in place, grant management systems and internal controls are being enhanced, and network-wide training is underway.
Big Brothers Big Sisters appreciates our partnership with DOJ and the mutual dedication we have to America’s youth. We look forward to an ongoing relationship that continues our great work together, with increased accountability and full compliance to all grant guidelines.