Justice Department audit blasts Colorado non-profit

McClatchy Washington BureauMarch 5, 2014 

A Colorado-based tribal coalition designed to stop domestic and sexual violence had serious problems managing federal grants, Justice Department auditors say in a scathing new report.

The unusually long, 88-page audit from Justice's Office of Inspector General examined Office of Violence Against Women grants totaling $570,000 to Our Sister's Keeper Coalition in Durango, Colo. Of this total, auditors questioned how $209,238 was actually used.

The tenor of the report is summed up when auditors say:

"Of the four most recent financial reports, three were submitted late; none of the four most recently submitted financial reports were accurate."

The coalition assists women on the Southern Ute Indian Tribe’s reservation and in nearby La Plata County, Colorado. According to the OIG auditors, the coalition:

"Frequently had related parties in leadership positions," "overpaid" the former director, "purchased gifts for inmates and paid for travel to visit an out-of-state inmate; paid for lodging at a ski lodge," and had a "treasurer who stated a lack of understanding of budgets or accounting."

While the coalition claimed that its websites had 3,500 visitors, the auditors found "neither of OSKC's identified websites had ever had any site visitors." And so on.

The coalition's formal response stated that the audit included "unfounded accusations" and further stated that many of the items "could have easily been explained and additional information provided" had the auditors asked.

"OSKC has always had sound financial management policies and procedures based on the federal and state guidelines," the coalition stated, further noting that the Justice Department's grant manager had never raised questions before.

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