Okla. Attorney General, State Auditor Taking Deeper Dive Into Misspent 2021 Funds

The Attorney General is working with the State Auditor’s office on an investigative audit into the misspending of $29 million federal grant money in 2021.

Thursday, June 29th 2023, 6:16 pm

The Attorney General is working with the State Auditor’s office on an investigative audit into the misspending of $29 million federal grant money in 2021.

“It's spicy but accurate,” said Attorney General Gentner Drummond.

The federal audit is 256 pages detailing all of the federal grant money the state received in 2021. About $7 million, or half, was COVID relief money the state was rewarded. The State Auditor and Inspector, Cindy Byrd, flagged over $29.2 million in questioned funds.

Over $8 million of the questioned funds was in regard to GEER funds, or Governor’s Emergency Education Relief funding.

“I think that we failed to oversee, properly manage and utilize the GEER funding in the manner in which it was intended,” said Drummond.

State leaders are criticized for mishandling millions meant to help students and families navigate remote learning. Oklahoma awarded ClassWallet with a no-bid state contract to distribute $8 million to families for things like technology, tutoring, or other education expenses.

“ClassWallet did exactly what we told them to do, and that was to open the portal,” said Drummond.

Drummond explains that 27 other states use ClassWallet, which is a portal for parents to access online purchases. ClassWallet has the controls to monitor what’s purchased, but our state leaders opted out of that layer of security.

“In Oklahoma- we are the wild west,” said Drummond.

Instead of books or technology, at least $650,000 was spent on buying things like Christmas trees, gaming consoles and outdoor grills.

“It's unfortunate that we've squandered millions of dollars through acquisitions not related to education,” said Drummond.

A lawsuit was filed against ClassWallet last year, by former Attorney General John O’Connor. One of the first things Drummond did after taking office, was drop the lawsuit. 

“The ClassWallet (lawsuit)was filed by my predecessor, primarily as political cover. Looking into the allegations at ClassWallet, they were frivolous,” said Drummond.

Governor Stitt and Ryan Walters share the belief that ClassWallet should pay back the misused funds. 

“There seems to be a lot of finger pointing and, in this instance, for good or bad, the governor placed a lot of trust when he delegated a non-state agency that was not equipped nor qualified to oversee it,” said Drummond.

Another program that was flagged in the audit was called “Stay in School” (SIS) and was also overseen by ClassWallet. This program was designed to distribute funds to private school families who had gone through an economic hardship due to the pandemic.

It was intended to help at least 1,500 families pay for private school tuition, but the funds were exhausted after 1,037 families.

“It broke my heart that families that genuinely needed the money and were qualified and had applied, they just didn't get the early nod,” said Drummond.

According to the audit, 1,000 families received up to $6,500 per-child from those SIS. Those families admitted they didn’t need the money. They were also allowed to apply for the grant before the general public.

“It pays to be powerful and influential and connected,” said Drummond.

Now, Drummond is looking to take a deeper dive into finding out exactly who's at fault for $29 million in misspent funds. His office is working with the State Auditor to conduct an investigative audit.

Drummond says his office has already flagged some documents that he wants the Auditor’s office to look at.

“I'm not prejudging anyone's actions as criminal or culpable, but we need to dive deeper to see what actions were taken and if these actions rise to the level of criminal activity and if so there will be prosecutions,” said Drummond.


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