CAMDEN – The Camden County Police Department “did not effectively manage” more than $4 million in federal grants, according to an audit by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The county department also spent almost $300,000 in grant money that should have been returned to the Justice Department, said the report.
But the review primarily cited bookkeeping and administrative concerns as it acknowledged the department’s crime-fighting efforts.
“While it appears CCPD generally made progress towards addressing gun violence,” the audit said, the police department could not show how the federal grants affected those efforts.
County officials have agreed to a dozen recommendations intended to address the audit’s criticisms, the report said. These include the adoption of written policies and measures to better track the use of grant funds.
The report focused on $4 million in grants provided in 2015 and 2016 by the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).
The grants funded the jobs of 30 entry-level police officers for three years, with a local contribution required to pay for a fourth year.
“We could not rely on the records CCPD provided during our audit,” said the report, which also claid the the department “did not adequately track” the employment of officers hired under the grants.
Camden County spokesman Dan Keashen said the police department has “worked closely with the Department of Justice to enhance several of our internal controls.”
He noted the police force recently received a new COPS grant for $2.5 million, and said the changes are intended to ensure that money “is tracked and our monitoring is improved.”
Due to the lack of adequate accounting records, the audit “questioned the full amount (of the grants) as unsupported costs,” the Office of the Inspector General said in a Nov. 18 statement.
Oversight also was lax for $1.3 million in local funding, the audit said.
The county is expected to provide additional documents to resolve spending practices questioned by the audit.
The report also said Camden County spent $291,411 for “unallowable costs” when it used grant money instead of local funds to cover some costs of fourth-year employment.
That money “should have been returned” to the Justice Department, the audit said.
It did not demand a return of the funds, but said the COPS office and Camden County would work together “to remedy the unallowable questioned costs.”
Keashen, the county spokesman, echoed that view.
“Moving forward, we will continue to work closely with DOJ to ensure we are operating in tandem and regularly reporting back to them in regards to the officer investment,” he said.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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This article originally appeared on Cherry Hill Courier-Post: Audit of COPS grants leads to tighter controls at Camden County Police