DHHS Will Welcome Review of LIHEAP by Legislature's Performance - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

DHHS Will Welcome Review of LIHEAP by Legislature's Performance Audit Committee

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The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says it will welcome an audit of it's Low Income Energy Assistance Program.

Kerry Winterer, the department's CEO, offered an invitation to the Legislature's Performance Audit Committee to look at the program.

The invitation was issued in response to a letter from Sen. John Harms, chairman of the audit committee, and follows a report released by State Auditor Mike Foley, which stated the DHHS staff has "a serious lack of understanding of the federal and state regulations."

Foley said nearly six million dollars of federal funding could have been used to make homes more energy-efficient or reduce residents' utility bills.

However, Winterer disagrees with Foley's assessment, saying the issues presented in his report were more a result of a need to establish better internal communications and controls rather that not understanding regulations.

He says those issues of internal controls have been reviewed and corrected for future years.

Furthermore, Winterer says spending those federal dollars could have had longer-term consequences, such as expanding the program and then not having enough money to cover the expansion.

Winterer says the audit committee is professional, thorough and fair and DHHS welcomes any findings from the Legislature's auditors that may aid the department in becoming more efficient.

"Our goal is to do our best to make sure funds are provided to those who are eligible for them and taxpayers' dollars are used effectively according to the established policies of the state," Winterer said.

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