Nevada lawmaker requires COVID cash audit

A state senator is requesting a broad audit of all state spending made below the governor’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, alleging that some spending might have been “corrupted by politics.”

Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, who represents the Centennial Hills neighborhood, submitted a letter Tuesday to the state Legislative Commission requesting the audit.

Hammond was impressed to pen the letter by a ProPublica investigation right into a fraudulent COVID testing firm that operated in Nevada. That firm, Chicago-based Northshore Laboratories, had COVID testing contracts with the University of Nevada, Reno, the Washoe County School District and a few operations in Las Vegas, and the assessments they supplied have been defective. The firm’s license was rescinded after a state investigation.

“It was the sum of all fears for a legislator,” Hammond mentioned. “When this broke, your heart stops because we didn’t have control (over the spending).”

Hammond mentioned he believes the corporate was allowed to function within the state due to connections to state leaders, together with Gov. Steve Sisolak, which allegedly made gaining a license simpler. Sisolak’s workplace denies any data of Northshore’s operations within the state past the investigation.

“If the facts reported are accurate, the contract vetting process was corrupted by politics. Moreover, those in the executive branch have likely not only misled Nevadans but also betrayed us to the benefit of a campaign donor,” the letter mentioned.

Audit request obscure

Sisolak’s workplace mentioned it was unclear what Hammond needs to look at.

“Until we see what Sen. Hammond is calling for, we can’t speculate or provide further comment,” mentioned Sisolak’s spokeswoman, Meghin Delaney.

When the Northshore scandal got here to gentle, the governor’s workplace referred to as the take a look at failures “despicable” and ordered the corporate to cease testing. The state by no means contracted with Northshore, the governor’s workplace mentioned on the time, however native governments in Nevada did.

Coronavirus Relief Fund {dollars} are already audited by the federal authorities, and the outcomes of these audits are posted on-line.

Hammond’s proposed audit is purposefully obscure — a brand new legislative subcommittee would draw up its particular boundaries — however he’s focusing on the federal aid cash supplied to the state in response to COVID-19.

That’s $1.25 billion in funding despatched to the state through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, $836 million of which went immediately into state coffers. Specifically, the audit would cowl all spending of COVID aid funds below the governor’s emergency order, which ran from March 2020 till final month.

“There is a lot of money that went into the state that we, as legislators, did not have oversight over,” Hammond mentioned.

Audit request not political

Despite being from the opposite get together from Sisolak and his administration, Hammond made it clear that his motives should not political, and he’s hoping for bipartisan help for his proposal.

“This isn’t political at all. I’m not on the ballot,” he mentioned. “This is just something the Legislature needs to do, have oversight over the executive.”

Sisolak is operating for re-election this 12 months, going through Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo within the November common election. Lombardo received the Republican main with 38.4 p.c of the vote.

Ultimately, the audit is about Nevadans regaining belief of their authorities.

“Nevadans distrust government at every level. This most recent revelation of political favoritism and corruption has only deepened that mistrust and enlarged the gulf between elected officials and Nevada families,” the letter mentioned. “The only responsible thing to do is to request and audit of each and every dollar spent.”

Hammond’s proposal shall be thought-about on the fee’s subsequent assembly in August.

“To me, it is clear that this is the least we can do, and anything less would be a dereliction of our duty to the people we serve.”

Contact Nick Robertson at [email protected] Follow @NickRobertsonSU on Twitter.

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