Montgomery County underreported $5 million in spending for emergency food procurements, according to a report released Tuesday by the Montgomery County Office of the Inspector General. The underreporting was the result of the county’s Department of Health and Human Services not following proper procurement procedures, including paying vendor invoices before getting signed confirmation goods were received, according to the report.

DHHS spent approximately $23 million in emergency procurements to combat food insecurity. However, a report released by Inspector General Megan Davey Limarzi found that DHHS did not follow all required protocols to make emergency purchases.

OIG found four major issues:

  • DHHS did not always comply with Code of Montgomery County Regulations requirements when requesting emergency procurements.
  • Procurement does not have a formal system in place to assess emergency procurement requests.
  • The Record of Procurements Annual Report for Fiscal Years 2020 through 2022 did not include all emergency procurements.
  • DHHS did not always receive a signed confirmation for the receipt of goods prior to paying bulk food vendor invoices.

In the report, OIG made six recommendations. Notably, OIG recommends the procurement department create a formal system to handle these requests, and that DHHS develop its own processes to ensure it is following procedures.

Emergency procurements carry an elevated risk of fraud, waste and abuse because they go through less review, according to the OIG. Some procedures required of most procurements do not apply to emergency procurements, meaning they’re under less competition, scrutiny and documentation.

“Although the use of emergency procurements is necessary and appropriate in certain circumstances, it is critical that the county maintains and follows processes that balance the competing interests of meeting unexpected needs while ensuring the integrity of public resources,” the OIG said in a news release.