Audit of Samaritan Village reveals almost $1 million in questionable costs
by Chase Collum
Mar 05, 2014 | 2852 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Site for proposed homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue.
Site for proposed homeless shelter on Cooper Avenue.
Establishment of a 51,000-square-foot, 125-family homeless shelter at 78-16 Cooper Ave. in Glendale hit a possible roadblock yesterday when state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an audit showing several problems with Samaritan Village’s finances.

“Nearly $1 million in inappropriate and questionable costs were charged to taxpayers because the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services didn’t effectively monitor this contractor’s expenses,” DiNapoli said in a press release accompanying the report. “OASAS needs to improve its oversight of how contractors are using public money so taxpayers aren’t getting the short end of the stick.”

OASAS entered into a five-year, $73.3 million contract with Samaritan Village in Oct. 2009 to conduct a Chemical Dependency Services Program for adults. That contract will come to an end on June 30, 2014.

In response to the audit, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and other elected officials to indefinitely suspend all contract negotiations with Samaritan Village.

“The findings by the comptroller call into question Samaritan Village’s ability to operate a cost-efficient transitional housing facility at a site that has already been claimed by numerous local elected officials and community leaders to be inadequate for such a purpose,” Hevesi said.

In total, DiNapoli’s auditors found Samaritan Village to have charged the state $973,881 for what his report called “unallowable, inappropriate, questionable or undocumented expenses.”

Infractions included the distribution of bonus checks in the amount of $1,082.84 to 203 employees, totaling $220,000. OASAS officials justified the expense as a necessary augmentation to low worker wages, however the audit concluded OASAS had issued the bonuses to eliminate a surplus.

Other inappropriate allocations include the assignment of $34,140 for an executive retirement package, $406,096 given to clients to spend on day trips and transportation, $63,519 for legal expenses unrelated to OASAS, $57,000 for construction costs related to damage caused by a Samaritan contractor, $55,000 for contractual services with no identifiable benefit, $35,158 for unauthorized purchase of high-end office equipment and $34,295 as a bad debt expense, “which is not allowable,” according to the report.

In a letter to city Comptroller Scott Stinger, Community Board 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri said, “We again question the accuracy of the financials for that proposal. We urge you to seriously consider this purported infraction in your review of the Samaritan Village proposal.”

DiNapoli’s audit recommends immediate recovery of $661,793 as repayment for inappropriate and undocumented expenses.

The audit also calls for “the establishment of effective monitoring controls to ensure Samaritan Village’s reimbursement claims comply with program requirements.”

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