Memphis nonprofit accused of bilking taxpayers for meals not served

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – A nonprofit run by a Memphis pastor promised to feed underserved children. But now, it’s accused of ripping off taxpayers.

In a new report, the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office accused the nonprofit, Giving Youth A Chance (GYAC), of cheating taxpayers out of more than $ 17,000 by claiming to have served thousands of meals it didn’t.

Summer can be an especially challenging time for children in Memphis, where nearly 40 percent live in poverty.

That’s where federal summer food programs come in.

“They want to make sure that children who are not in school and who don’t do not have a meal coming to them for breakfast or lunch still can have that opportunity to receive a meal during those summer months,” said John Dunn, the director of communications for the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. “We know that these programs are high risk, there’s an opportunity there for people to misuse funds within those programs, so we are very careful to closely watch how money is being spent.”

The Comptroller’s Office, which helps provide oversight of the programs in Tennessee, found GYAC wrongfully obtained more than $ 17,000 in federal funds by falsifying meal count records used for reimbursement as part of two food programs for children.

“What we found, unfortunately, was a pattern of showing up to see feeding sites where children were supposed to be fed and not finding evidence of staff actually providing the number of meals that they were claiming,” Dunn said.

For instance, state inspectors say workers at one feeding site submitted a form showing they served 24 meals in one day, but the nonprofit listed 95 meals served when they submitted the reimbursement request.

At another site, New Horizon Apartments, inspectors found the feeding site closed when it should have been open.

The Comptroller’s Office says the problems with GYAC go back years and said they have “identified repeated noncompliance.”

The Comptroller also issued an investigative report about GYAC in 2020.

The director of the nonprofit, Rosman Randle, also serves as senior pastor of Zion Temple Church of God in Christ.

When contacted for comment, Randle referred Action News 5 to his attorney, Edward L. Stanton III.

“This will confirm that I have been retained to represent Giving Youth A Chance (GYAC). We will review the Comptroller’s report and respond accordingly, ”Stanton later said in a statement.

Dunn says the Comptroller’s report has been shared with state and federal prosecutors, including the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office and the US Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.

He says the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS), which selects the organizations that serve the meals, should hold them accountable.

“If these providers are not taking the corrective action they need to fix the problem, then we believe that DHS should remove them from the program,” Dunn said.

New Beginnings International Ministry, a nonprofit based in Nashville, is also mentioned in the report. Like GYAC, inspectors accuse it of claiming to serve meals it did not.

In a statement to Action News 5, DHS told Action News 5 they are working to address ongoing issues with the meal programs. These are the answers the department provided to our questions:

1. What is DHS doing to fix what looks like an ongoing issue?

“DHS monitors all food program sponsors for compliance with federal law and applicable regulations. DHS is continuing to work with the Comptroller to investigate instances of program noncompliance. As mentioned in the Comptroller’s Special Report, DHS has independently reviewed both of these organizations, has issued reports advising the sponsors of required action steps, received acceptable corrective action and recoupment of the identified overpayment. According to federal program regulations organizations that fulfil these criteria are eligible to continue operating the program. ”

2. What kind of vetting does DHS do when selecting a contractor to distribute these meals in the community?

“DHS reviews all applications to the SFSP program on an annual basis. Approval for participation in the program is contingent upon applicants meeting the requirements outlined by the federal regulations, found at 7 CFR 225.6 (b). ”

3. Why has DHS allowed these organizations, and presumably others, to continue participating in meal distribution programs?

“The SFSP is a federally funded program that is governed by USDA regulations. DHS is required to allow organizations opportunities to correct the errors identified in the review of their program and their meal distribution.

“Notably, the Comptroller questioned 3,910 meals out of the approximately 500,000 meals Giving Youth A Chance served in 2021. This represents a less than 1% error rate. DHS conducted its own monitoring review of Giving Youth a Chance in 2021 and identified similar areas of non-compliance. However, giving Youth a Chance corrected the areas of non-compliance through the corrective action process and returned all identified overpayments. Thus, they meet the sponsor requirements outlined by federal regulation.

“During DHS’s annual review of applications for participation in SFSP, sponsor applications are denied if there are outstanding overpayments owed to the department or if instances of non-compliance have not been addressed through the corrective action process.

“DHS monitors all food program sponsors for compliance with federal law and applicable regulations. DHS is continuing to work with the Comptroller to investigate instances of program noncompliance. As mentioned in the Comptroller’s Special Report, DHS has independently reviewed both of these organizations, has issued reports advising the sponsors of required action steps, received acceptable corrective action and recoupment of the identified overpayment. According to federal program regulations organizations that fulfil these criteria are eligible to continue operating the program. ”

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