Federal stimulus money intended to provide home weatherization improvements for low-income persons is being wasted or misspent in Tennessee, according to a Comptroller’s Division of State Audit preliminary review.
Comptroller Justin P. Wilson outlined the results from the review of the Weatherization Assistance for Low-Income Persons (WAP) program in a letter sent Monday to Virginia T. Lodge, commissioner of the state Department of Human Services.
In April 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the state $99 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) funds for the program, plus another $7 million in non-ARRA funding during fiscal year ended June 30.
The WAP program is administered by the Department of Human Services, which contracts with local governments and nonprofit organizations across the state. The local governments and nonprofits, known as subrecipients, subcontract with general contractors to perform the weatherization work. The subrecipients also employ or contract with individuals to conduct energy audits.
In a release, the Comptroller’s Division of State Audit said state auditors reviewed files for 444 homes that were weatherized through the WAP program and found deficiencies in more than half of those cases. Some files lacked adequate documentation, including verification that applicants met income eligibility requirements and properly completed inspection reports that would indicate whether weatherization work was properly performed.
State auditors also conducted site visits at 84 homes that were supposed to have received weatherization work through the program. In 45 percent of those cases, energy inspectors approved the work although the contractors had not performed some weatherization measures, had not properly completed the required measures or had performed work that was not allowable under the WAP program.
Other deficiencies included the use of uncertified or unauthorized persons to perform energy audits and the use of one unlicensed contractor. In some cases, improvements such as stairs and ramps were built using program funds, even though they provide no weatherization benefits.
In addition, the auditors noted several instances where critical weatherization measures were recommended but the measures were not performed or should have been recommended and authorized — such as repairing broken window panes — but were not.
In his letter to Lodge, Wilson writes, “It is critical that those individuals charged with the responsibility for approving, performing and reviewing the actual work realize that there are real consequences for failure to meet their obligations. To that end, all remedies, including administrative, civil and criminal actions, should be taken to hold those individuals accountable for their actions or failures to act. One of the greatest defenses to fraud is individuals understanding that there will be consequences for their behavior.”