CPB IG audit questions spending by Capitol News Connection

By Dru Sefton

An audit by the CPB Inspector General’s Office of Pundit Productions, the nonprofit that operated a public radio news bureau on Capitol Hill until its shutdown last fall, found violations of several CPB grant requirements and recommended that Pundit return more than $35,000 in grant monies.

At CPB management’s request, the IG examined how Pundit spent a $300,000 grant provided by CPB in 2011 for a “transition project” intended to develop a long-term business plan and pricing model. The nonprofit bureau, run by Melinda Wittstock, relied heavily on CPB’s assistance, receiving grants totalling $2.3 million since its start-up in 2003. For the 2011 grant, CPB covered slightly less than half of the $688,036 budget for the business planning.

The IG spotted violations with $81,013 in expenses, ranging in scope from more than $40,000 in depreciation charges to payments of $285 that covered reporters’ parking tickets. The IG considered CNC’s overall budget for the project and recommended that CPB recover its proportionate share of the questioned expenses, or $35,322.

Pundit challenged the audit findings, and its response was included in the IG’s report. Pundit alleged that CPB’s audit request “was motivated by public embarrassment and defensiveness as a result of station disappointment at CNC’s closure.” When CNC shuttered, 13 stations and one newspaper were left without the service after paying advance fees for the year (Current, Dec. 12, 2011).

CPB management will make a final decision on the matter “in accordance with CPB’s audit resolution procedures,” the report said.

Click here to read the entire report.

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