The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General found that part of the $110 million US rescue package for migrants encountered at the southern border was misspent by nonprofit organizations.
In some cases, it was given to illegal immigrants who had escaped border patrol.
The report describes how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded $110 million in ARPA-earmarked humanitarian assistance funds to “provide services to families and individuals encountered by DHS in the communities most affected by the humanitarian crisis on the south-western border”.
At the time of the audit, $80 million had been awarded to 25 organizations in border states, and the IG reviewed $12.9 million in expenditures.
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The office found that money was not always used according to guidelines, that organizations did not provide required receipts and documentation, and that some did not provide supporting documents to those to whom they provided services. It determined that 18 groups that received $66 million in funding did not always comply with funding and application guidelines.
Organizations were required to keep records of costs, migrants served each day, expenses incurred and proof of payment for purchases. In one sample, the IG reported that 58% of the amount reviewed was missing documentation.
Additionally, he determined that some of these migrants did not have DHS encounter records, meaning they were “runaway” illegal immigrants who had evaded Border Patrol agents instead of surrendering. after crossing illegally.
The IG said of the 824 names it tested as a sample, 197, or 24%, were ineligible to receive humanitarian services and 154 had no dating records.
“These issues arose because FEMA failed to provide sufficient oversight of funds and instead relied on local councils and tax officials to enforce funding and application guidelines,” the report said. “As a result, FEMA, as chair of the national board of directors, cannot guarantee that humanitarian assistance funds have been used as intended by the funding and application guidelines.”
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Several Republican lawmakers have raised concerns about the use of nongovernmental organizations at the border, suggesting these groups waste money and encourage or facilitate illegal immigration.
Amid a historic migrant crisis that has overwhelmed authorities and seen more than 2.3 million encounters in fiscal 2022 alone, migrants are frequently treated and then released and handed over to NGOs who will provide care , services and transport.
In its report, the IG warned that, without additional oversight, organizations can “continue to use funds for services without providing the supporting documentation required for reimbursement, increasing the risk of embezzlement and fraud.” .
He made two recommendations regarding the strengthening of monitoring and the implementation of monitoring measures for future credits. FEMA agreed with the recommendations and said it has since issued guidelines to crack down on reimbursements for unsupported costs.
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In a response to OIG, the agency said it has also instituted quarterly reporting to “provide more oversight and updates on how funds have been spent, thereby reducing risk and increasing transparency.” .
It also creates funding request templates, provides additional requirements for definition and clarity of funding guidelines, and creates a method for random site visits to organizations in addition to other policy measures to verify that funds are being used. as expected. These moves must be completed by June 30.
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