The D.C. government is attempting to ensure stronger oversight and better allocation of HIV/AIDS funding following a Washington Post investigation into misspent funds.

The Post’s investigation revealed that one-third of District funding for HIV/AIDS patients from the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Administration went to local agencies that misspent or did not spend money.

The District’s HIV/AIDS rate climbed to 3 percent in March, a rate classified as a “generalized and severe epidemic” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite a high rate of HIV/AIDS prevalence in the District – which has persisted for years – funding for organizations dedicated to supporting patients has not been closely monitored until now. From 2004 to 2008, about $25 million of local funding was given to groups that never implemented promised programs, were plagued by corruption, hired ghost employees and did not keep proper records, according to The Washington Post.

“Prior to the installation of new leadership at the top of DOH and within HAHSTA, a number of serious organizational problems prevented funding from being used efficiently and effectively,” the Department of Health said in a press release issued on Monday. “A lack of strategy and proper accounting of funds had created a culture within the agency where grant recipients were not consistently held accountable for their work, making ensuring that essential services were reaching residents in need more difficult to track,” the press release said.

The District’s HIV/AIDS Administration receives about $100 million a year in funding, largely from federal sources. Mayor Adrian Fenty and the Department of Health’s officials are holding themselves accountable for the misallocated funding, though they were not in office for the entire duration of the problem, according to The Washington Post.

“Assuring our residents living with HIV and AIDS have access to high-quality care provided by agencies that are being held accountable is paramount to the success of our work,” said Pierre Vigilance, director of the Department of Health, in the press release.

“Residents depend on us to connect them with the services they need to lead healthy and productive lives and we will continue to work to improve the way those services are provided and funded,” Vigilance said.

Since the change in leadership of the HIV/AIDS Administration in 2007, the agency has sought to create more oversight and transparency. Systemic changes being implemented include the contingency of funding upon performance reviews, standardization of the grant process and the creation of an Agency Capacity Assessment.

“In the last two years, we have made great improvements to the way we serve District residents,” said Shannon Hader, HIV/AIDS Administration director, in the press release. “Our system for delivering services and funding organizations cannot be called perfect, but we continue to work diligently to build upon the improvements we’ve already made.”

The DOH is undecided on whether to request money be returned by the agencies to which it was misallocated.

“[D.C. Attorney General] Peter Nickles pledged on Monday to investigate all allegations of inappropriate funding and spending, however we are not at a point yet where we can say that we’re definitely asking for money back,” said Dena Iverson, director of communications at the Department of Health, in an e-mail provided by Monique Waters, communications coordinator in the executive office of the mayor.

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