Snyder hiring ‘integrity monitor’ to oversee Flint aid

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration is looking to hire an “integrity oversight monitor” to scrutinize Flint aid and ensure state appropriations are being appropriately used to address the city’s water contamination crisis.

Snyder and state legislators have so far approved more than $240 million in emergency funding for Flint in the current and upcoming budget years, including more than $185 million in general fund dollars.

The integrity oversight monitor “is something the Legislature asked for to give them reassurance that there is a proactive approach to monitoring Flint funding and expenditures,” said Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton.

The Department of Technology, Management and Budget issued Thursday a request for proposal seeking bids from private vendors for the job, which would supplement work by the state Office of Auditor General and Office of Internal Audit Services.

Within 60 days of contracting with the state, the monitor would be required to “conduct a fraud, waste, and abuse risk assessment and a corresponding loss prevention strategy to identify potential areas for review to ensure the appropriateness of the expenditure of funds related to the Flint Emergency.”

The contractor would also be required to develop a “tracking and reporting framework” for future monitoring use, according to a job description.

It’s not clear how much the hire will cost the state, but legislators previously authorized the Department of Technology, Management and Budget to draw from a drinking water emergency reserve fund. If the contract exceeds $250,000, it will require approval by the State Administrative Board.

Budget language adopted earlier this year indicates the oversight monitor will be required to report its services and any findings of “malfeasance or inefficiency” to the governor and Legislature every six months.

Flint aid approved so far approved by the state includes funding for health and screening programs, food and nutrition, infrastructure repair and residential water bill relief.

The new monitor will be “just another layer of accountability,” said state Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee.

The House, Senate and Snyder administration talked about oversight during the budget process, said Pscholka, adding that the new position was not inspired by any suspicion of wrongdoing so far.

“We found that with large things like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, another layer like this has been a good move to protect taxpayers,” he said.

Flint residents continue to rely on filtered and bottled water due to elevated lead levels in the municipal supply. The city, operating under a state-appointed emergency manger, began using Flint River water in April 2014 but switched back to a Detroit supply in October.

The state is requesting contractors to submit bids for the integrity oversight monitor job by Oct. 10. It will evaluate bids based on the work description, staffing proposals and price. The contract is anticipated to begin Nov. 21.