Governor’s Office Defends Federal Spending After Critical Report From Oversight Group

Thursday, February 25th 2021, 10:53 pm
By: Barry Mangold


Officials in charge of spending $1.2 billion in federal aid meant for pandemic relief were questioned Thursday after an oversight group released a report criticizing how the money has been used. 

Chief Operating Officer John Budd spoke on behalf of CARES FORWARD, the governor’s team dedicated to spending the federal relief at a meeting of LOFT—the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency. 

A LOFT report earlier this month said CARES FORWARD spending process “lacked transparency and integrity.” 

It’s possible some of the state’s spending of the funds will not meet federal guidelines, the report said, which would put Oklahoma on the hook for paying back funds. 

Mike Jackson, LOFT’s Executive Director, said they are still missing purchasing orders, invoices and other documentation from the governor’s team. 

“You’re auditing a process while it’s in motion,” Budd said.

He said the team is actively compiling documents to send to LOFT. Last week, CARES FORWARD submitted 20,000 pages related to spending projects. 

“Do we feel ready for the federal audit? Absolutely,” Budd said. 

“We intend to work with the CARES FORWARD team to ensure that we do have that justification on each one of those projects,” Jackson said. 

Sen. Roger Thompson (R- Okemah), one of the chairs of LOFT, directed Jackson and his team to continue reviewing the governor’s spending of federal relief funds. 

“Until we see justification for each one of these projects, it’s very hard to determine the risk level for federal recoupment,” Jackson told News 9 after the meeting.