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U.S. News

Georgia: HIV-Related Contracts Face Probe

July 19, 2011

The state is investigating about $5 million in contracts the Georgia Department of Public Health's HIV unit awarded to nonprofits that perform much of the HIV testing in Georgia. The Department of Community Health (DCH) inspector general's focus was on the "uncertainty" of how DPH awarded the contracts, as well as disparate per-person testing costs, said Brenda Fitzgerald, the new state health officer.

Fitzgerald, appointed five months ago, is reviewing the investigative report, said DPH spokesperson Ryan Deal. Fitzgerald said she is conducting a full review and inspection of all contracts the unit awarded.

"Some are like $75 a person [tested]; some are $40 a person," Fitzgerald said. "It may be there are wonderful programs out in that $75 [range that] we want to emulate, or it may be that they are not very efficient partners."

The inspector has interviewed two former state health officials involved in an organization to which DPH awarded a noncompetitive grant. Investigators are determining whether the contract met criteria for being awarded noncompetitively.

A Journal-Constitution investigation found that for years the unit has been slow in disbursing federal HIV prevention grants for nonprofits to conduct HIV tests. Delays have forced some groups to rush to spend the money or risk losing it.

The state was 41 days and 77 days late in awarding two federal grants worth $140,000 to a Savannah-based group for testing. AID Gwinnett waited three months for a $91,600 federal grant to provide safe-sex counseling to female inmates. Another group waited more than six months for $40,000 in federal funds to provide testing in west Georgia.

Since 2006, the department has returned $2 million in unspent federal funds -- money that advocates say is greatly needed for testing and prevention.

As of July 1, DPH became a standalone department rather than part of DCH. Acknowledging that contracts were regularly stalled as they traversed layers of management, Fitzgerald has since mandated that paperwork not sit on anyone's desk for more than two days.

Back to other news for July 2011

Adapted from:
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
07.17.2011; Chris Joyner

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
See Also
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