Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley recently conducted an audit of the Omaha based Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging after receiving a very interesting phone call that tipped them off to improper spending within the agency.
“And the client that contacted us said that these clients were actually dead people. So, we did some checking and sure enough we found the Eastern Nebraska Office on Aging was billing for services they provided to dead people.”
Foley says with this discovery they decided to dig a bit deeper into the agency’s finances and they found more unexplained spending.
“But there wasn’t that much money involved but it was a pretty shocking discovery. So, we decided to look further to see what they were doing with the money. This is all government money and we found many thousands of dollars that we found to be inappropriate. Alcohol purchases. Jewelry store purchases. Department store purchases and so forth. As a result of these allegations and the audit work, the director, the finance officer and other key personnel have been dismissed from that agency.”
Foley says that the agency billed services such as meals and counseling to those deceased but they also found that thousands of other dollars spent on items that did not benefit the clients they serve.
“The amount of money for services for dead people were only a few thousand dollars but the more serious problems were about 25-thousand dollars for expenditures that had no documentation what-so-ever. You really can’t tell if it is business or personal related expenditures but many of them had a personal nature about them like jewelry store purchases and alcohol purchases and so forth. There is no reason those purchases would have been necessary for this agency to conduct its mission so we think these were personal purchases that should have never been made with government funds.”
Foley says the agency had a credit card and apparently it was used to purchase items for personal use.
“They had a credit card system and some of the employees had access to the agency’s credit card and when the bills came in they would submit those bills to the state government to reimburse the agency for the expenses. The Department of Health and Human Services didn’t do a good job of monitoring those billings and expenditures. If they would have done so they would have seen these are not legitimate expenses that would of occurred for the services of aging people.”
The audit has been turned over to the Nebraska Attorney General’s office for them to review and determine if there was criminal intent.