A Springfield, Mo., auditing firm has been selected to conduct an independent investigation into the management of a $10 million fund created for the benefit of survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
BKD, LLP has been selected by the audit committee of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation to perform the investigative review, foundation officials said Wednesday.
Foundation trustees decided to call for the investigation after a group of bombing survivors publicly accused foundation staff members of sometimes unjustly rejecting survivors' requests for money for education, medical treatment and other assistance.
“Recent news reports have raised questions about services provided to or requested by specific individuals,” said Steven C. Davis, chairman of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation Board of Trustees. “We believe an independent investigative review is an appropriate way to address the reported concerns. We look forward to working with BKD to assure that any legitimate concerns or complaints are addressed and to be certain that any future publicly aired complaints are factually accurate.”
BKD is based in Springfield and has about 2,100 employees located in 29 offices in 12 states, including Oklahoma, according to its website. The company serves clients in all 50 states as well as some other countries.
One of the reasons BKD was selected was because it has a division that “specializes in forensic and investigative accounting services of the type involved in this case,” foundation officials indicated in a news release.
“The investigation will be headed by personnel within that division, which is not based in Oklahoma,” the news release said.
In their engagement letter to foundation trustees, BKD officials said they will be analyzing “certain policies, procedures and practices surrounding the Disaster Relief Fund” and trustees should expect a thorough and independent investigation.
‘Let the chips fall'
“We have advised you that we are not interested in pursuing this investigation unless the board is fully committed to a thorough and complete ‘let the chips fall where they may,' investigation,” BKD officials said. “You hereby confirm that this is precisely what the board desires.”
The first phase of the investigation is expected to begin within the first two weeks of December and cost about $14,500 plus expenses, the engagement letter states.
Bombing funds will “absolutely not be used” to pay for the investigation, said Cathy Nestlen, communications director for the foundation. Payment will come from foundation administrative funds, she said.
“The first phase will consist of an on-site assessment including interviews of key individuals involved in the Disaster Relief Fund and a review of selected documentation,” the letter states. “The purpose of this first phase is to gain an understanding of the nature of the claims and make a preliminary assessment of the allegations requiring further investigation and the development of a work plan for the additional work.”
At the conclusion of the first phase, BKD officials said, they will present foundation officials with a range of possible services and estimated costs to be considered in subsequent phases of their investigation.
BKD officials said they understand their investigation will examine “sensitive, confidential, personal information relating to the identities and circumstances of some of the victims, beneficiaries and claimants.”
They pledged to keep such information confidential. But foundation officials said they expect BKD's final report will be made public.
The April 19, 1995, bombing attack on the Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building left 168 dead and hundreds injured.
More than $40 million in donations flooded into various Oklahoma organizations after the disaster. Much of the money was quickly spent, but about $14.6 million eventually was consolidated into the foundation to provide for the long-term needs of bombing survivors.
The foundation since has distributed about $11.1 million for the benefit of 962 individuals through 16,256 transactions, but still has about $10 million because of interest on investments.
Some bombing survivors have been pushing to have remaining funds divided among survivors.