NASA Inspector General: Millions in grants given to Wise County could be put to better use


A NASA Office of Inspector General audit is calling out Wise County for a flawed accounting system. The audit, released in July, relates to millions of dollars in grant money the Wise County Circuit Court Clerk of Court’s Office received.

According to longtime Clerk Jack Kennedy, the office has used the money for several years to help hundreds of students work on 200 community science research projects in Southwest Virginia and worldwide.

The audit concluded more than $4 million dollars in NASA grants given to Wise County should be put to better use due to insufficient accounting of funds. The audit also called out the county for $33,000 in unsupported transactions, including flowers, bonuses and book purchases that “appear to be of a personal nature.”

Both NASA and Wise County have disagreed with several of the findings and Kennedy says his office will not be required to return any money. Kennedy and Wise County Chief Financial Officer David Cox tell us every single payment questioned has documentation that supports the expense. In addition, according to Cox, the NASA project manager not the county makes decisions about what expenses are allowed.

“The premise of the audit is incorrect,” Cox said. “All of the payments that come through my office have documentation.”

The county, using $1,000 in grant dollars, has since hired its own auditing firm to follow-up with an audit of its own.

“If something is amiss we will fix it,” Kennedy said.

Despite the audit’s findings, the OIG did conclude Wise County has “satisfied the overall performance goals and objectives of its cooperative agreements.”

“There is smoke but no fire,” Cox said.

Kennedy wrote a letter to the NASA OIG back in June in response to the audit’s findings, saying corrective actions have been taken to remedy six of the recommendations.

“We continuously navigate the complexities of changing circulars, their contradictory statement and incorrect guidance to meet all NASA requirements,” Kennedy wrote. “We consistently strive to improve ourselves and our processes.”

Copyright WJHL 2015. All rights reserved.

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