A special audit conducted by BKD LLP on a $3 million U.S. Department of Labor America’s Promise grant found 1 out of 4 participants in Springfield were ineligible for the tuition program.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment & Training Administration awarded the grant to the city of Springfield in December 2016. It was slated for use through 2020 to provide free education in high-demand fields at Ozarks Technical Community College, according to a news release. In November 2018, the grant known locally as Ozarks Promise was expanded to four health care program studies, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.
The BKD audit found 106 of the 376 participants, or 28%, could not be classified as eligible due to incorrect employment status or county of residence during enrollment.
“We are currently working with the U.S. Department of Labor to arrive at the final number of ineligible participants, determine whether the city will need to reimburse any of the grant monies, and most importantly, fix our enrollment processes so this does not happen again,” City Manager Jason Gage said in the release.
The audit was requested after employees at the city’s Workforce Development and Finance departments voiced concerns the enrollment processes may not have correctly assessed eligibility for America’s Promise, according to the release.
The audit report came days after the city announced the abrupt retirement of Springfield Director of Workforce Development Mary Ann Rojas. City officials have said Rojas is returning to her native Texas to spend more time with her two daughters and granddaughter.
When asked if Rojas’ departure was connected to the audit, Springfield spokeswoman Melissa Haase said the city doesn’t comment on personnel issues.
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