Oklahoma City bombing fund audit reveals no improprieties

An independent forensic audit of Oklahoma City's bombing relief fund has revealed no improprieties related to the disbursement of donated funds.
by Randy Ellis Published: March 22, 2013

An independent audit of Oklahoma City's bombing relief fund has revealed no improprieties related to the disbursement of donated funds.

Auditors did, however, suggest that trustees of the Disaster Relief Fund should consider changing their controversial decision to reallocate $4.4 million to projects not directly related to assisting bombing survivors.

“There may be a portion of the funds that could be redirected back to the Disaster Relief Fund and put to use while still maintaining compliance with IRS standards,” auditors with BKD, LLP, a Springfield, Mo.-based forensic auditing firm, said in their 151-page report.

Auditors found no legal wrongdoing.

“The Disaster Relief Fund's practices and procedures were consistent with IRS guidelines for disaster relief,” auditors said. “Testing disbursements did not reveal uses of donations for anything other than their designated purpose.”

About $49 million in private donations and federal assistance poured into the Oklahoma City area after the April 19, 1995, bombing attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that left 168 dead and hundreds injured.

Much of the money was quickly spent but about $14.7 million eventually was consolidated into the Disaster Relief Fund administered by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation to provide for the long-term medical, educational and living needs of bombing survivors.

About $11.2 million has since been disbursed by the fund to assist 1,033 survivors and others affected by the bombing.

But nearly $10 million remains in the fund — thanks to about $10.9 million in investment earnings off the donations, auditors said.

Questions raised

Public reports last year that the fund still has about $10 million — nearly 18 years after the bombing — sparked criticism from some survivors who contended requests for reimbursement for legitimate bombing-related expenses sometimes were denied and not everyone was treated equally.

Auditors looked into those complaints.

“Some of those who indicated they had been denied assistance have received thousands of dollars in financial assistance from the Disaster Relief Fund and other agencies since 1995,” auditors stated. “The overwhelming majority of requests for assistance we reviewed were approved, although denials for some types of assistance did occur in some instances.”

Some denials could better be described as requests for more information, auditors indicated.

A few survivors fell “between the cracks” when fund administrators lost track of them, auditors said.

Auditors noted some children of bombing survivors received larger stipends for graduate studies than others as the size of stipends gradually increased from $1,000 a semester in 1997 to $10,000 a semester in 2009, before dropping it back down to $5,000 a semester in 2011.

Trustees gradually raised the stipend when it became apparent that investment income would likely cover the increased expenses but dropped it back down when they became concerned that the funds might be depleted too rapidly, auditors said.

Read the report
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by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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