Audit: Georgia SOS should act to ensure it meets federal reporting requirements

(The Center Square) — Georgia’s Secretary of State’s office should take additional action to ensure it meets federal reporting and inventory requirements tied to federal election grants.

The Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts included the finding in a new audit following a March 2022 examination.

The initial audit revealed that, with a few exceptions, the office spent Help America Vote Act funds on authorized goods and services. However, nearly half of the HAVA grant transactions had at least one noncompliance issue related to state purchasing requirements.

While the auditors found the office has worked to address compliance with state purchasing and federal grant requirements since the earlier report, additional action is needed to ensure federal reporting and inventory requirements are met.

Between fiscal 2018 and 2021, the office received $34.8 million in HAVA grants and $135,513 in interest.

According to the audit, the office has improved its federal grant compliance, including uploading supporting documentation associated with the goods and services it bought into the state financial system. The office has also hired more personnel to help with grant administration, and once state funds are available, the state agency indicated it plans to implement a new inventory tracking system and manually audit voting system equipment.

“Reported changes to agency purchasing practices, documentation management, and personnel should help minimize risks of noncompliance with state procurement guidance and state law,” the audit concluded. “Further action is needed to ensure federal reporting and inventory requirements are met.”

While the initial audit explored how HAVA grant funds were spent, how much remained and whether expenditures complied with state and federal requirements, it did not examine election administration or compliance with state policies governing the use of bond proceeds. Of the initial five findings, three had no recommendations; the secretary of state’s office had addressed one and partially addressed the other.

According to the audit, “SOS reported that it hired a grant administrator to assist with submitting federal financial reports in a timely manner. SOS stated that reports that were not submitted by the due date since hiring the grant administrator were the result of resubmissions.”