Audit Scrutinizes DOC Program to Weatherize Low-Income Homes

A performance audit was released yesterday by State Auditor Brian Sonntag that evaluated the State Department of Commerce ( DOC) home-weatherization program. The goal of the audit was to evaluate the DOC’s process for making sure funds were spent appropriately at the local level.

The DOC run program received a major funding increase in 2009 through the federal economic stimulus act. The results of the audit were good and bad. 

The Good
  • The projects - meant to reduce energy use in needy families' homes through new insulation, furnaces, energy-efficient windows etc. - ramped up in 2010, with contractors weatherizing more than 8,049 Washington housing units. The average in 2005-2008 had been about 3,300.
  • Local agencies like Pierce County Community Services and the Metropolitan Development Council of Tacoma contract for the improvements, with oversight from the DOC.
  • There were 329 housing units weatherized through the Tacoma nonprofit last year, more than triple any of the previous five years. Another 742 homes were weatherized by Pierce County.
The Bad
  • The DOC did plenty of inspections but officials didn't consistently follow up to make sure agencies fixed problems.
  • A September re-check that involved 47 homes where local agencies said problems were corrected, and found incomplete or shoddy work in nine of them.
  • During one inspection a local agency was allowed to pick the project that state officials would inspect. The DOC said this instance was an anomaly because the employee of the agency refused to cooperate with DOC officials. The agency later fired the employee.

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