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New Mexico nonprofit's director awarded federally funded contract to spouse

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Watchdog Blog,New Mexico,Inspectors General,Waste and Fraud,Justice Department,Ethan Barton,Nonprofits

A New Mexico nonprofit organization that received federal grants hired an employee's spouse and spent more than $1.3 million in questionable costs, according to an audit released Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Justice inspector general.

The Office on Violence Against Women awarded the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs Inc. more than $4 million between 2007 and 2011.

The project director awarded three non-competitive contracts to her spouse, which the IG said was a conflict of interest both because the project director oversaw the grant and because it wasn't competitively awarded.

Both the director and her spouse were involved in writing the grant application that included the contracts intended for the spouse, according to the IG.

Coalition officials said they felt the spouse was qualified because of his advanced degrees in physics and a record of volunteering for the group for several years.

The IG insisted, however, that the contracts should be disallowed because the organization didn't alert the Justice Department of the possible conflict and didn't use a competitive bid process.

Of the $4,061,104 awarded in federal grants, the coalition spent $1,347,153 in unallowable and unsupported costs. More than $600,000 of the total came from unallowable contract and subcontract expenditures, including using several grants to pay employees multiple full-time salaries for part-time work.

“We noted deficiencies including contracts with missing signatures, expenses outside of the approved budget or contract, a missing contract, and the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the IG said. “NMCSAP has not demonstrated adequate monitoring of its contractors and subgrantees.”

The IG recommended that the Office of Violence against Women coordinate with the coalition to ensure fair hiring practices and to remedy the disputed $1.3 million in questionable grant spending.

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