To determine if the Department of Agriculture and Markets is adequately overseeing the Farm-to-School Program to ensure funds are used as intended and program goals are achieved. The audit covers the period January 1, 2016 through October 20, 2020.
About the Program
The mission of the Department of Agriculture and Markets (Department) is to promote the State’s agriculture and its high-quality and diverse products; foster agricultural environmental stewardship; and safeguard the State’s food supply, land, and livestock. New York’s Farm-to-School Program (Program) was established to increase school districts’ and individual schools’ purchase of local specialty crops by developing existing strengths while building additional relationships between schools. The Program is intended to connect schools with local farms and food producers, strengthen local agriculture, improve student health, and promote regional food system awareness. By providing financial assistance to develop programs, schools should be better positioned to purchase food from State farms. From January 2016 to February 2020, the Department entered into 45 Program contracts totaling $4.2 million with 34 different entities. During this period, the Department reimbursed recipients over $2.6 million for Program expenses such as salary for Program coordinators, consulting services for safety or food service, and a variety of equipment for food preparation (e.g., fruit and vegetable slicers) and storage (e.g., commercial refrigerators).
We found the Department needs to improve monitoring of both Program expenditures and recipient performance to ensure recipients use funds as intended and achieve Program goals. We generally attribute these findings to a breakdown in monitoring functions as well as a lack of policies and procedures to guide staff on Program monitoring. We reviewed 21 (of 45) Program contracts totaling approximately $2.27 million, of which $1.71 million had been expended as of February 2020. We found about $1.17 million (68 percent) in expenses for 17 contracts either lacked sufficient documentation to support expenses paid or were not authorized under the contract. Further, 19 of the 21 contracts we reviewed had missing, late, and/or incomplete quarterly progress reports. These reports are designed to track the recipient’s progress and are a critical tool in determining whether contractors are performing as they should. Therefore, the Department’s ability to monitor and ensure contractors are performing as required, including meeting terms of the contracts and goals of the Program, is reduced.
- Develop policies and procedures to provide guidance on what documentation should be maintained for contract reimbursement and monitoring of contract terms and conditions.
- Take appropriate action to investigate and recover, where applicable, the $1,169,243 in unsupported, insufficiently supported, and unauthorized Program reimbursements.
State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Brian Reilly
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236