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Early Childhood Development, Education and Care Fund audit released

The Missouri State Auditor’s Office released its audit of the Early Childhood Development, Education and Care (ECDEC) Fund.

State Auditor Tom Schweich gave the program a “Poor” review.

According to Schweich, three Start Up and Expansions (SUE) child care facilities received $171,500 in taxpayer money during the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years, but stopped participating in the program. The facilities did not repay the money.

ABC 17 News has learned one Eldon facility received $22,500 to operate an in-home child care program, but no children attended it.

“They obviously hadn’t looked to see if there was a need for this facility,” Schweich told ABC 17 News. “They had $22,500 and no kids showed up…ever.”

The Department of Social Services gave another facility $60,000 to created licensed slots at a new center, but the facility was never built.

Schweich says the DSS needs to improve the way it handles funding.

“It’s $170,000 basically thrown away that could have helped a lot of kids prepare for their schooling,” he said.

DSS responded in the audit, stating that the SUE program had run out, but the department would start implementing better accountability measures across its programs.

The audit determined an assistant commissioner with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) also served as the director of the Center for Family Policy and Research at the University of Missouri-Columbia. The center is partly funded by the ECDEC fund.

Schweich said during the assistant commissioner’s tenure, state agencies awarded the center contracts without using a competitive process, an apparent conflict of interest.

“It looks bad to the public when you’re one of the people in charge of administering a contract but are also receiving the contract,” Schweich said. “That’s problematic to us.”

DSS and DESE both responded, saying the commissioner had no active role in contract negotiations.

Schweich also told ABC 17 News both the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s administration have cut and re-appropriated funding for both departments.

“There are significant problems with contract compliance and monitoring eligibility, and those have existed for years,” he said. “They do have funding issues but they should have been caught without additional funding.”

Schweich said Monday, with the exception of the conflict of interest issue, he was impressed with how the departments were working to correct the issues.

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