Auditor slams DESE, Social Services for early childhood funds

Schweich’s rating was included in the Citizens’ Summary for a 31-page report released this afternoon, generally covering the state’s 2011 and 2012 business years.

Schweich said the Social Services department must improve its procedures for funding “Start Up and Expansion” child care facilities, citing three facilities that received more than $171,000 in “new funding” awards that, later, stopped participating in the program but didn’t return the money as required by their contracts.

He also noted a $22,500 payment made to a facility to operate a new, in-home child care service that no children attended, and an $89,000 payment made to a different provider to create 24 more child care “slots” — but only 14 were added, and the owner sold the business three months into the contract period.

The agency said it was seeking reimbursement from two of the three providers — the third had met its contractual obligations — and that lawmakers no longer funded the program

The audit also said Social Services overpaid a contractor providing accreditation guidance to child care facilities. The department said its newest contract with that contractor was written more tightly.

The report said there was an apparent conflict-of-interest involving an assistant education commissioner who also worked for the University of Missouri-Columbia, and directed the work of an early childhood education contractor that DESE and Social Services used.

Both agencies said they, too, were concerned with conflicts of interests and were working to avoid them.

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