March 2 2011
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Mecklenburg County Commissioner Jim Pendergraph says it’s time to put one of his campaign promises into action.
Last year, Mecklenburg County’s Department of Social Services paid nearly $2 million dollars in welfare benefits to 200,000 people.
Now, the former sheriff wants to make sure that taxpayer money isn’t going to illegal immigrants and people cheating the system.
The audit would put the Department of Social Services under the microscope.
Pendergraph wants to find out if people receiving welfare benefits still qualify for them.
“We need to audit the books so that we can properly say to the citizens that pay taxes that we are on top of this,” said Pendergraph, Republican Vice-Chair of the Mecklenburg County Commission.
Pendergraph believes the audit makes good business sense, but he doesn’t want it done internally.
He’s asked commissioners to hire an outside auditing agency.
“They tell me they do spot checks, well that doesn’t get it, I want a forensic audit,” said Pendergraph.
It wouldn’t be the first time DSS has come under scrutiny.
A 2009 audit of its Giving Tree program revealed donations to needy children were mishandled.
That audit cost the county $93,000 dollars.
County Commissioner Jennifer Roberts says since then DSS has had a tight handle on its finances.
“I think in the aftermath of that incident I have a great deal more confidence in how we’re accounting for what we are doing,” said Roberts, Democratic Chair of the Mecklenburg County Commission.
Roberts say she’s hesitant to approve an audit unless there’s evidence of a problem.
“And if there is [a problem] I would support that, but I have not really heard a concern, ” said Roberts.
But Pendergraph says he wants to be proactive.
He thinks an audit could uncover improper funding and save the county big bucks in welfare benefits.
“Some of the comments I’ve gotten,’ well I’m not sure we can afford that’. Well I’m not sure we can afford not to,” said Pendergraph.
DSS says it undergoes an internal audit every year that’s required by the state.
However, Pendergraph wants an outside agency to conduct the audit which he believes would be more thorough.
The cost would depend on how extensive the audit is.
County officials will discuss a cost estimate at Tuesday’s commissioner meeting.