JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If you’ve ever wondered where your hard-earned tax dollars are going, a 60 page operational audit of a state department may shed some light.
"Here we find that our own Office of Energy, the state agency, has fallen down on the job,” said John Winkler, president of the Concerned Taxpayers of Duval County.
Winkler wasn’t surprised at the findings of the first ever audit of the Office of Energy.
"I’m not shocked, although, I certainly am pretty disgusted by it,” he said.
Florida received the third highest amount of energy stimulus money in the country, 176 grants worth more than $220 million, but this investigation found little of that money (just 60 percent) was actually spent.
So where did your tax money really go?
Action News found out one state grant worth $2.5 million went to a local business, ARI Green Energy, Inc. They were supposed to research and develop the next generation of wind technology, but we’ve learned the business went belly up. And according to the state, more than $730,000 of your tax dollars went with it.
No one answered when we knocked at one of their listed addresses. We tried calling the number listed on their website, but when we introduced ourselves they refused to talk.
"ARI is uhh an interesting company,” said Sterling Ivey, spokesman with the Department of Agriculture.
Ivey confirmed ARI Green Energy is one of two grant recipients in Florida being criminally investigated for fraud by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI.
They are currently looking into how much, if any, of the money they were given can be recovered.
Winkler hopes next time something like this won’t take as long to catch.
"If we can at least stop the flow of this taxpayer blood at a relatively early stage, then hopefully going forward, we'll be able to see to it that the funds are spent for what they're intended to be,” he said.
All in all, the Inspector General identified $2.5 million in taxpayer waste with an additional $200,000 that was recovered right before it was given to a company filing for bankruptcy.
Based on these findings the state says they’ve established performance measures that will enable them to better hold grant recipients accountable.
To read the complete audit go to: http://www.freshfromflorida.com/newsroom/resources/IA_1112-02_Final_Report-Operational_Audit_of_OOE.pdf