KIRAN: Auditors release findings into how BRAVE contracts were issued
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An audit sparked by WAFB's lead investigator, Kiran Chawla's, series into the BRAVE contracts was released Monday.
It was a records request from the 9News Investigators that eventually forced the mayor to suspend all contracts under the BRAVE program, a popular crime fighting program funded by a federal grant.
On Monday, the audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditors found in a little more than three months, the city-parish contracted with 12 vendors costing $125,000. By the end of last year, the city paid out just over $103, 474. In what some would call a rare move, the city didn't use all of the money available, only using 71 percent.
"It just seems there should be a way that whenever you are doing this that you are getting the most efficient use of federal funds. It's not like federal funds are available for everything, so whenever we have that opportunity to get those monies, we should make sure we are maximizing and using those the best we can," said Roger Harris, director of investigative audits.
One of the most controversial contracts was with Arthur Reed, better known as Silky Slim. The convicted felon turned activist was supposed to talk to children to improve relationships with police, but he made headlines for the things he said against law enforcement. After the 9News Investigators started asking questions, Reed's contract for $9,800 was put on hold and eventually he wasn't paid anything. The contract was cancelled altogether.
- Mayor Broome releases internal review of BRAVE contracts, prompted by 9News Investigation
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- Sen. Kennedy asks BR mayor for explanation on BRAVE funds following 9News investigative reports
- Mayor’s office says no BRACE funds used in YES program, cites clerical error
- 9News Investigators obtain BRAVE contracts, payments
- EBR councilman asks for audit of mayor's office contract
- THE INVESTIGATORS: All BRAVE contracts suspended
- Mayor Broome responds to BRAVE contracts controversy
Of the 12 signed contracts, two grabbed the auditor's attention. One was with Runner's Courier Service, originally signed for $17,500.
"One of those contracts in particular was for traveling to 100 miles transportation in the 100 mile transportation and it up costing $11,700," said Harris.
The contract with Runner's Courier Services was to provide "transportation services for the BRAVE program participants as needed" at a cost of $17,500. The contract would go from July 1, 2017 to September 30, 2017, but the contract wasn't even signed till July 25, 2017, 24 days after it was already in place.
Harris says auditors noted that as a problem. During the entire contract, Cleve Dunn with Runner's Courier Services only drove 100 miles. That's why the contract was renegotiated and reduced to $11,700. A drive from Port Allen to Lafayette is 50 miles one way, so 100 miles round trip. At a total cost of $11,700, that comes out to $117 per mile.
KIRAN: Would you agree that $117 per mile is a little outrageous?
MAYOR BROOME: I would believe that under normal circumstances that is beyond what is to be expected.
East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome says the contract was supposed to be for 24/7 transportation. It's why she said they reduced the contract price from $17,500 to $11,700. "Certainly our goal is to make sure that we are good stewards of taxpayers' money. We were in a contractual relationship and we had to fulfill the contract," said Mayor Broome.
Harris says paying $117 a mile is equivalent to violating the law. "Well, if you enter into a contract with someone and you paid them way more than the value is work, we generally take that as that is a violation of the constitutional provision because if you were giving someone more than it is actually worth, it's like making a donation with public funds," said Harris.
KIRAN: The audit says that the city-parish may be in violation of the Louisiana Constitution.
MAYOR BROOME: I don't believe, as we certainly were in discussions with our legal department, that there was any violation of state constitution.
The second contract was with New Hope Outreach Ministries.
"That particular vendor was paid the full amount of the contract, but when we looked at the documentation, there was not sufficient documentation to show that they were entitled to the full amount. It was actually $1,000 in difference," said Harris.
It was after auditors started digging that New Hope Ministries provided the rest of the documentation, but Harris says they still have an issue with that. "One of the key things that you want to do in government is to make sure that people are not being compensated for work they do not do because we all have to be stewards of the public money, public trust," said Harris.
The mayor says she welcomed the audit and points out only two of all the contracts stood out. "There was no egregiousness that took place in this process," said Broome. "The whole BRAVE process was one certainly that we believe should have been a tighter process and as a result of that, extended oversight is now implemented into contracts that come out of our office."
The audit recommended improving how contracts are written, making sure vendors are clear about what's expected, and more oversight in general.
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