Stitt fires back at critical report of CARES Act money spending

Mike Seals - February 5, 2021 10:18 am

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Decisions and processes on how the CARES Act dollars were spent in Oklahoma are under scrutiny, and soon a members of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration team will meet with a legislative oversight group on a critical assessment released Wednesday.

The 188-page report is the result of a months-long effort by the Legislative Office for Fiscal Transparency. Legislators tasked LOFT with looking into how the state spent the Coronavirus Relief Funds to provide transparency for them and the public.

The report criticized the state for lacking both transparency and accountability after it was provided little information into what a number of high-dollar expenditures were spent on, or justification on how they addressed the pandemic.

The report zeroed in on charges like $510,000 spent on cleaning Capitol Complex building windows, more than $18 million updating welcome centers and a $2 million campaign inviting tourism into the state.

“Approval documentation, POs, receipts, all things that would help in our findings and help in our evaluation, we didn’t receive a single program that had all of that in one place,” said LOFT Executive Director Mike Jackson.

The report also stated money could have been better spent on things like “a more strategic deposit into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund” and investing in health initiatives like testing and contact tracing.

In the report, a letter penned by Oklahoma’s COO John Budd and Mike Mazzei with the CARES FORWARD Team fired back at what they called “an agenda-driven document which seeks only to cast negative light on the monumental accomplishments of the CARES FORWARD Team’s work.”

They argued the reason LOFT couldn’t find certain information “is in part rooted in the fact that it wasn’t even looking for it.”

The meeting between LOFT and state administration officials was scheduled for Thursday afternoon, but was canceled for a family emergency. It has not yet been rescheduled. The next scheduled meeting for LOFT is on February 11.

 

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