Lawmakers draft legislation to better scrutinize NGO funding - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Lawmakers draft legislation to better scrutinize NGO funding

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New Orleans, La. - Some state lawmakers are looking for ways to get a tighter grip on money going to non-governmental organizations.

The state treasurer's office has pushed hard on the issue, after millions of taxpayer dollars were given to nonprofits with little to no accountability. 19 such organizations are headed to the new Office of Debt Recovery because they didn't turn in the appropriate paperwork proving how they spent the funds.

Some legislators say all that money could have been well spent somewhere else.

"I think our universities are in dire need of support from the state that we don't get. It's not a priority with this administration, yet we can spend, waste money on these NGO's that we shouldn't be spending money on," said Thibodaux Rep. Jerome "Dee" Richard.

Richard is drafting legislation that would give lawmakers more say in which non-governmental organizations receive state money. He is enlisting the help of Metairie Rep. Cameron Henry, who says he'll be a co-author and work to remove the NGO's from the budget process.

"The issue we have is a lot of times, these NGO's are buried in other departments. So, it's going to take a lot of work from Dee and other members who are willing to help to really go through the departments and find out where the agencies have these NGO's and what services they're providing," said Henry.

Their idea is to require lawmakers who want certain NGO's funded to explain in detail what that money will accomplish.

"If you're willing to submit the NGO, you should own it. You should be proud of whatever work it's doing, and if you're not going to be proud of the work it's doing and you can't justify it, then clearly you shouldn't spend taxpayer dollars on it," said Henry.

The lawmakers say their mission is to weed out misspent money that can be used elsewhere, instead of turning to taxpayers for more revenue.

The legislation is just one idea on the table. Other lawmakers generally agree that the process needs to be scrutinized.

Westwego Rep. Robert Billiot said, "the bottom line is we're not going to raise taxes until we collect all that is due to Louisiana."

Regarding the NGO's that request funding, New Orleans Rep. Austin Badon said, "They come to us as legislators and say, 'I need $100,000' or 'I need $500,000.' I've never seen a schematic as to how they arrive at these figures."

Slidell Rep. Kevin Pearson recognizes the value of certain NGO's such as the Council on Aging, but said, "We can't fund everything with a good purpose."

Algiers Rep. Jeff Arnold said, "I believe the administration has failed to verify that the NGO's are current and eligible for state funds and therefore is responsible for allowing the dollars to be issued."

State Treasurer John Kennedy is working with the lawmakers to change the process. In a statement he said, "I'm happy to help Rep. Richard, Chairman Fannin and their colleagues in efforts to reform if not abolish the current NGO process. Taxpayers deserve true transparency and accountability in how their money is spent in Baton Rouge."

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