However, the audit found several flaws in spending procedures.
Almost half of 192 grant transactions had at least one noncompliance issue, including expenses on credit cards outside the state’s official purchasing card program and $500,000 worth of public relations spending outside state contracting rules.
“While SOS spent HAVA funds on goods and services that were allowed, the method by which SOS purchased the goods and services did not always comply with state procurement guidance and/or state law,” the audit states.
The audit also said the secretary of state’s office might not have followed state law when its chief operating officer, Gabriel Sterling, quit his government job to become an independent contractor in charge of the rollout of Georgia’s new voting machines. The job change came with a pay increase from $114,000 annually including state benefits to $200,000 without benefits.
State employees aren’t permitted to conduct contract negotiations that result in higher pay, according to the audit.
“It is unclear why the employee did not perform the necessary project management services as a state employee rather than a contractor,” the audit said.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the audit should dispel allegations of inappropriate spending.
“My main goal has always been to uphold the integrity of Georgia’s elections,” Raffensperger said. “The audit requested by the Georgia Legislature demonstrated once and for all that my office used federal funds for appropriate purposes.”
The audit had been requested by House Speaker David Ralston and House Appropriations Chairman Terry England.
— Staff writer Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.
Georgia spending of federal election funds 2018-2021
$10.1 million: Communications, advertising, contractors
$5.9 million: Postage
$5.1 million: Ballot insertion, printing and mailing
$2.7 million: Masks and election administration
$2.5 million: Envelopes
$1.4 million: Grants to county election offices
$1.3 million: Printing services
$861,00: Computer software
Source: Georgia audit of secretary of state grant administration