Tonawanda News

Local News

May 24, 2013

FEMA revises first October storm audit

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — “It changed 180 degrees,” Tobe said. “In the past it said you can’t give a local preference. It switched. Congress changed its mind and not only can there be a local preference, there should be. It helps rebuild the economy rapidly to keep the money in the community.”

Tobe noted that complaint by auditors was also dropped from the second draft — and no mention was made of the county’s response, which Tobe said is a breach in professional standards for auditors of any stripe.

He called the audit a “casual process” and “frustrating” due to the lack of communication between county officials attempting to respond to auditors’ requests.

That, he said, was the central issue in the remaining $9 million the FEMA audit calls into question. In both versions, auditors contend Erie County was unable to produce paperwork justifying $9 million in FEMA response money — that, in effect, county officials lost the receipts for part of the work after the storm.

Not so, says Tobe. 

He said among the thousands of pages of information turned over to federal officials, county workers inadvertently provided some incorrect paperwork to auditors — but he insisted the correct documentation exists. Auditors, though, weren’t interested in giving the county a chance to set the record straight.

“We’ve ... told them we do have the records and can obtain them and produce them if they want,” he said. 

Generally, he said auditors would submit a draft of their findings to the county and officials here would have a chance to respond and provide what paperwork was missing. That was never the case, Tobe said.

“We would receive (the draft audit) and … (say) ‘sorry we gave you the wrong stuff. Here’s the right stuff’ … and there would be a little bit of back and forth. None of that happened … and they’ve denied us the right to correct it. We were pretty upset with that,” Tobe said.

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