Magazine article Church & State

Ohio Officials Reveal Questionable Spending for 'Faith-Based' Scheme

Magazine article Church & State

Ohio Officials Reveal Questionable Spending for 'Faith-Based' Scheme

Article excerpt

Officials in Ohio are looking into allegations that a "faith-based" organization in Virginia improperly spent money intended for the poor on jumbo-screen televisions, a study with limited value and a $125-per-month parking spot for a contractor.

The Dayton Daily News reported last month that the Virginia group, We Care America, is under audit. The organization in 2005 was given a $2.1 million contract to oversee the disbursement of $22 million in federal funds for projects to strengthen Ohio families, mentor troubled youth and work with prison inmates.

In January, newly elected Gov. Ted Strickland announced that various faith-based grants would be reviewed. Some staff members in the Ohio faith-based office were dismissed, and employees began reviewing documents. The Daily News reported that under the previous administration of Gov. Bob Taft, "the Governor's Office on Faith-based and Community Initiatives paid one-page monthly invoices from We Care America with apparently few questions."

Auditors have found several questionable expenses. Among them is a decision to buy two 50-inch televisions. The sets cost $15,229 to buy and install and are still not functional. One of the TVs isn't even in Ohio and was set up in We Care America's offices in Lansdowne, Va.

Questions have also been raised about possible favoritism in awarding the grant to We Care America. Several organizations responded to the request for proposals, including groups with solid track records in providing community services. …

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