New state office considered to track stimulus money

Would be charged to see if money was misspent, governor says

A new state office may be created under Gov. Sonny Perdue to help keep track of federal Recovery Act money and whether it's being misspent, a governor's spokesman said Thursday.

The office is just in the idea phase at this point. Members of the four agencies in charge of following stimulus dollars — the state auditor, inspector general, accounting and planning and budget — will meet with Perdue over the next few weeks to discuss the idea further, spokesman Chris Schrimpf said.

The state is researching ways to fund the office. The federal Office of Management and Budget has guidelines on how stimulus money can be spent for administrative purposes, and a bill is pending in Congress on how to keep track of the stimulus money, Schrimpf said.

A federal audit released this week says state resources for oversight of stimulus money "continue to be limited," saying the state auditor and inspector general want to hire more people to keep track of the money.

The state auditor, which has 140 people assigned to audit the money through fiscal 2011, said his office will need another seven more workers to help with audits for fiscal 2009.

The office needs 16 more people to help with audits for fiscal 2010 and an additional ten more for audits for fiscal 2011, according to the report, released by the Government Accountability Office.

Two of the four workers in the state inspector general's office now have some oversight of stimulus funds, the report said. The inspector general wants an additional five people to make sure agencies are complying with Recovery Act guidelines and to review how funds are being spent.

The staff also would review contracts tied to stimulus money and investigate allegations that money would be misspent, the report said.

The state also has started using an automated system to keep track of jobs created and saved because of federal stimulus money, according to the federal audit, the second one released since stimulus funds were disbursed.

Georgia is one of 16 states and Washington that the GAO will follow over the next few years to see how federal stimulus dollars are spent. The agency picked these states because they hold two-thirds of the nation's people and will receive two-thirds of the stimulus money.

The American Recovery Reinvestment Act is about creating jobs and pulling the economy out of a recession. It is up to the states and their agencies to keep track of these jobs, though the federal government hasn't given all of the details on how that should be done.

At this point, Georgia is using an automated system used for financial management to keep track of jobs created and saved, the audit said.

The state also created a Recovery Act Implementation Team, a group of representatives from the planning and budget office, as well as the state's 31 agencies, charged with making sure federal stimulus money is spent in the right places.