Lawmakers to continue probe of Maine Veterans Homes
The Legislature's Government Oversight Committee is continuing its probe into the financial operations of Maine Veterans Homes. The panel voted Wednesday to allow the Legislature's watchdog agency to take a closer look at the nonprofit's budgeting controls, including a possible audit.
Maine Veterans Homes has attributed its financial struggles in part to rising costs that have outpaced funding it receives from Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance and charitable donations.
But earlier this year a whistleblower made a range of unspecified allegations about the organization's budgeting practices to the Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability, the watchdog agency directed by the Legislature's Government Oversight Committee.
While OPEGA says officials at Maine Veterans Homes have been cooperative, it still has concerns about financial controls and has asked the oversight committee to green-light a closer look.
GOC chairman Sen. Craig Hickman, a Democrat from Winthrop, said a deeper dive is necessary to make sure state funds are being spent properly.
"We have to take as seriously what has been complained about by the former controller [whistleblower], just as the new board chair and CEO are taking it seriously," he said.
Hickman's comments came after some Republicans questioned costs associated with a possible financial audit, but the committee ultimately voted 10-1 to allow OPEGA to proceed with its probe.
Maine Veterans Homes at one point last year proposed closing two of six locations in Caribou and Machias.
The Legislature staved off those closures by directing $3.5 million in state funds and it plugged another $3.4 million shortfall this year by tapping revenues from a state fund that gets money from taxes on marijuana.
The nonprofit has also received help from federal funding obtained by Maine's congressional delegation.