Audit alleges fraud by contractor for metropolis well being division – Austin Monitor

Audit alleges fraud by contractor for city health department - Austin Monitor

Picture of town of Austin. Vaccine clinic held by town in the course of the Covid pandemic.

Friday March 31, 2023 by Jo Clifton

In a report launched Thursday, town auditor’s workplace detailed its investigation into allegations {that a} nonprofit contractor for Austin Public Well being dedicated fraud by misrepresenting greater than $1.1 million in monetary transactions throughout three contracts with the well being division between December 2020 and September 2021 .

Central Texas Allied Well being Institute (CTAHI) had one contract for Covid-19 testing, one for workforce improvement and one for administration of Covid-19 vaccines.

Auditors discovered the well being division paid CTAHI about $417,000 in fraudulent contract claims. As well as, auditors stated the group seems to have overstated its general vaccination numbers and fabricated affected person data beneath its contract to supply Covid-19 vaccines.

The group had a fourth contract with the Financial Improvement Division. The auditors discovered no issues with that contract.

The contractor denied all allegations of wrongdoing. Its lengthy and convoluted protection is included within the report.

Nevertheless, the group pledged to repay Austin Public Well being $375,000 after the division’s inner audit discovered that CTAHI had submitted inaccurate and falsified fee requests associated to 2 contracts. In line with the audit, the group has repaid about $12,500 however has didn’t make greater than $68,000 in scheduled month-to-month funds as outlined in its fee schedule. In line with Brian Molloy, director of investigations for the auditor’s workplace, the group claimed to have despatched a test to town in February, but it surely has but to reach.

In line with its web site, CTAHI is a nonprofit faculty that seeks to get underrepresented communities into careers in steady, fulfilling healthcare roles that they haven’t had entry to earlier than.

In October 2021, Austin Public Well being knowledgeable the auditor’s workplace that CTAHI might have offered falsified monetary data to town. Particularly, APH was involved that the group had submitted altered or fabricated invoices, receipts and financial institution statements to assist its alleged bills, in keeping with the audit report.

The audit report states that CTAHI submitted falsified data to assist expenditures for each of those reimbursement contracts, the workforce improvement contract and the Covid-19 vaccine contract.

Particularly, CTAHI falsified data for about $362,000 in medical provide purchases from a Houston firm that, in keeping with its web site, provided PPE provides to the federal government, medical hospitals or skilled first responders and nonprofit organizations.

Particularly, the audit decided that CTAHI created false transactions in its financial institution statements and ledgers to match the bill quantities. Of that $362,000, Austin Public Well being reimbursed over $263,000 in counterfeit purchases from this firm. Whereas different CTAHI distributors shared unique data to check with paperwork CTAHI produced, this one (vendor) didn’t present data of CTAHI’s purchases regardless of repeated requests by our workplace, auditors wrote.

Auditors additionally allege that CTAHI enormously exaggerated the quantity of provides it bought. For instance, auditors stated one bill indicated the nonprofit bought 200,000 syringes when the contract goal would have really referred to as for less than about 17,000 syringes. CTAHIs additionally argued that vaccination efficiency would doubtless have required solely about 3,500 syringes to manage Covid-19 vaccinations beneath their contract. Auditors submitted pictures of falsified vaccine supply invoices together with their narrative.

Molloy advised Austin Monitor that though APH ended up paying out a big quantity, they finally bought maintain of this on their very own via contract monitoring. It then referred the matter to town auditor for additional investigation.

Auditors stated they discovered proof that two of the group leaders, Todd Hamilton and Jereka Thomas-Hockaday, produced or submitted falsified paperwork and directed CTAHI staff to falsify contract-related data. Each refused to take action, the audit studies.

In response to an allegation by Central Texas Allied Well being of bias in opposition to a black-owned nonprofit, Molloy stated: We observe skilled requirements to make sure we conduct full and unbiased investigations. We imagine that our processes be certain that we don’t let any type of agenda drive what we do. Our objective is to study precisely what occurred after which let the proof assist no matter we wrote about.

Auditors stated that they had referred their findings to the Austin Police Division due to the possibly felony nature of CTAHI’s actions.

Mikal Williams, legal professional for CTAHI, despatched a press release to Austin Monitor from Hamilton and Thomas-Hockaday, the principals of the group:

CTAHI, President Todd Hamilton and Dr. Jereka Thomas-Hockaday denies any intentional or unintentional fraudulent exercise concerning neighborhood service grants obtained via APH or the Metropolis of Austin. CTAHI was authorised for operations two weeks earlier than the pandemic shutdown and needed to rebuild to start lessons in August 2020. CTAHI obtained the APH grant for coaching well being staff in September 2021. CTAHI met all requirements given to them by the APH- kinds and all requests for data by APH’s grant managers. APH’s grant managers confirmed and authorised all internships. APH knowledgeable CTAHI that APH had improperly authorised a number of college students who had been already enrolled, graduated and/or working within the well being areas required by the contract and requested to conduct an audit of all documentation for the grant.

When some questions had been raised about a few of the paperwork offered to APH, a gathering was held and CTAHI agreed to refund any overpayments of the subsidy paid to CTAHI beneath the 4 corners of the contract, offered that had on-site entry to all documentation referring to the contract and launched an inner investigation. CTAHI found {that a} disgruntled worker in President Hamilton’s workplace offered false or manipulated documentation to APH upon preliminary request and subsequently resigned. Town auditors’ report mischaracterizes a number of issues and blatantly lies about others. CTAHI has different private and non-private grant funders who’ve knowledgeable CTAHI that, regardless of the refusal, they had been contacted by town auditor. CTAHI has operated beneath these private and non-private grants with out incident. CTAHI not too long ago audited a equally located County grant it operates beneath and located no issues.

Thomas-Hockaday stated in her assertion: There’s a lengthy documented historical past of town of Austin having issues working with small minority contractors after which blaming the failures of efficiency on the contractors themselves. That is why so many minority companies and nonprofits will not work with them. That is additionally why individuals of shade don’t belief our native authorities. I used to be advised by a number of friends who had labored with town earlier than to not take this contract, however I naively thought I may make a distinction due to the pandemic. I’ll by no means do enterprise with town of Austin once more.

In her response, Austin Public Well being Director Adrienne Sturrup stated she agreed with the findings of the audit and that she agrees with the auditors’ assertion that the response from CTAHI accommodates inaccuracies and deceptive statements. She famous that as a part of the Covid-19 response, APH obtained greater than $109 million generally funds and grant {dollars} to manage with out further employees capability. This was nearly thrice the annual quantity usually administered.

Sturrup stated her employees offered intensive technical help to make sure CTAHI submitted applicable documentation for efficiency studies and reimbursements because the group had not beforehand obtained funding from town of Austin. She stated her employees will proceed to supply coaching and technical help to businesses that contract with the division.

That Austin Monitors work is made potential by donations from the neighborhood. Though our reporting sometimes covers donors, we’re cautious to maintain enterprise and editorial efforts separate whereas sustaining transparency. A full listing of donors is out there right here and our code of ethics is defined right here.

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