Other state and federal agencies and departments should take note of a recent decision by the Kansas Department of Aging. It's the type of action that taxpayers would like to see more of.
The department has announced that it intends to recover a $53,913 grant that a Manhattan aging agency spent on items other than what it was intended for. Although the agency, the North Central-Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging, won't actually have to repay the money, the amount of the grant will be subtracted from grants it was scheduled to receive from the federal government for the current fiscal year.
The action was taken after independent auditors found that the agency spent $25,653 in 1987 and $22,095 in 1988 for meals for employees under 60. The federal grant money was also used to pay employee Christmas bonuses totaling $6,165 in 1987 and in 1988, contrary to rules issued by the federal Office of Management and Budget. The Manhattan agency, which serves an 18-county area, discontinued the expenditures after being notified they were improper, but it had made no plans to repay the funds.
The action taken by the state Department of Aging may seem routine to people who run businesses but often seem lacking when it comes to public funds. Tax-supported agencies whether they are for aging, housing, education, or any other purpose must be held accountable for the money they spend. The money is appropriated for specific purposes, and that is how it should be used.
A tight fiscal picture at both the state and federal level makes it seem likely that tax bills will go up in the near future. Especially in difficult economic times, taxpayers deserve the assurance of knowing their money is serving the purpose for which it was intended.