The state auditor’s office says Missouri paid $1.5-million dollars for services for young children that were never provided.

State Auditor Tom Schweich

State Auditor Tom Schweich

State Auditor Tom Schweich gave the Early Childhood Development, Education and Care Fund the lowest rating he has: “poor.” Schweich says the review uncovered a series of what he called small- and medium-sized issues. The largest of those was an increase in funding for organizations that administer Early Head Start programs without requiring them to serve more children.

“They even allowed some of those contractors to continue to receive payments after the seven month deadline when they still didn’t have enough children, and that was another $133,000 that was wasted,” said Schweich. “$1.6-million went out the door and not a single additional child was taken care of. That’s a problem.”

The Department of Social Services responded to the finding saying contractors were paid according to contracts reviewed by several Department divisions, and it believes no overpayments occurred nor is recovery necessary. It said current Head Start contracts have been updated to be based paid based on expenditures only.

The audit also found a wide difference between what is paid to contractors providing home visits on contracts awarded through a competitive process and those that were not. Schweich said contracts awarded in a competitive process cost the state $2600 per family, per year, compared to $3300 per family per year with no competitive bidding.

“You save money when you compete. Everyone knows that just from the standpoint of economics,” said Schweich, “but we demonstrate it with the real numbers in the report.”

The Department says it will keep using both competitive and non-competitive contracts. It says the program is more successful for its use of non-competitive contracts to continue “already established relationships with the community partnerships.”

Read more of the audit’s findings with the full report at the State Auditor’s website.  See the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s statement in response to the audit’s findings regarding early childhood education programs on DESE’s website.