BLAINE - The city of Blaine failed to make sure that two firms that received $164,204 in engineering fees from a federal grant were allowed to do business with the federal government.
That was a finding released Monday, Sept. 24, by the Washington State Auditor's Office.
The finding came from a state audit of the city's spending in 2011 of a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to build a new wastewater treatment plant.
Federal grant regulations bar the city from working with firms that have been suspended or banned from doing business with the federal government. The city checked the status of other contractors, but not the two discussed in the findings.
State auditors said they independently verified that the two did have the OK to do business with the federal government. The state Auditor's Office said the city needed to put controls in place to prevent such issues from occurring again.
In response, the city said the USDA documents didn't include such requirements, that they were confident that the firms were eligible to work on federally funded projects based in part on their nationally recognized reputations, and that state and federal regulators themselves were unclear how a consultant would be banned - known as "debarred" - or who would ban them.
The city was supposed to check with the federal Excluded Parties List issued by the U.S. General Services Administration, according to the state Auditor's Office.
Nevertheless, the city said it has developed a checklist to comply with the requirement, along with including boilerplate language on its contracts.
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