Firm chosen for audit of Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund
BY ZIVA BRANSTETTER World Enterprise Editor
Thursday, November 29, 2012
11/29/12 at 8:36 AM
Get the background: Read past stories and view documents related to the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund.
OKLAHOMA CITY - A national firm has been selected to conduct an investigative audit of a fund holding about $10 million for survivors of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
The Oklahoma City Community Foundation announced in a news release Wednesday that BKD LLP has been selected to conduct the audit of the Oklahoma City Disaster Relief Fund.
The accounting firm, based in Springfield, Mo., has offices in 12 states, including Oklahoma.
The Disaster Relief Fund has about $10 million remaining from donations made in the aftermath of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which killed 168 people and injured hundreds more, and earnings on those donations.
About $14.6 million, including funds donated to provide education for survivors, was turned over to the nonprofit foundation to manage.
Several bombing survivors told the Tulsa World the foundation denied their requests to pay for medical care, education costs and other needs they believe are related to the bombing.
Others said they had no clue $10 million remained in the fund while they have struggled to pay their own medical expenses.
Two survivors have said they experienced no problems receiving payment for education, medical care and other needs associated with the bombing.
The foundation has said it has not denied legitimate requests for assistance related to the bombing, although it keeps no records of denials.
A World investigation also found that the foundation earmarked $4.4 million in earnings from the bombing donations for other purposes.
Those earmarks include a $20,000 donation to disaster funds in other states.
In its news release Wednesday, the foundation stated: "BKD has a division that specializes in forensic and investigative accounting services of the type involved in this case. The investigation will be headed by personnel within that division, which is not based in Oklahoma."
BKD's auditors will work with the foundation's audit committee to decide the scope of the investigation, the release states.
The committee is led by a foundation trustee and has five other volunteer members.
"It is currently expected that BKD's final report will be made public," the foundation's release states.
Steven C. Davis, chairman of the board of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, said in the release: "Recent news reports have raised questions about services provided to or requested by specific individuals. We believe an independent investigative review is an appropriate way to address the reported concerns."
Holly Sweet, a spokeswoman for a group called the Survivor Tree Committee, said the group "did not call for an independent audit. Rather, we called for officials to call in Kenneth Feinberg to assess, audit, conduct town hall type meetings, interview survivors and disburse the funds."
Feinberg is an attorney who has headed survivor compensation funds in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and mass shootings at Virginia Tech and a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.
Foundation officials have said public concerns expressed by survivors are either a result either of errors or misunderstandings.
Sweet said the survivor group members have not received a call from foundation officials "to clear up any 'miscommunications' or 'misunderstandings.' "
"I can only hope that this firm will take into account the intent of donors and the many stories of denial and dismissal and the attempts to conceal and distort the status of the bombing fund," she said.
Cathy Nestlen, a spokeswoman for the foundation, said in an email to the Tulsa World on Wednesday: "The questions that have been raised by survivors will be investigated by BKD. Exactly how they go about doing that will be a determination made by BKD. OCCF has made it clear that we will be totally transparent and give BKD complete access to all OCCF personnel and records."
Original Print Headline: Firm chosen for disaster fund audit
Ziva Branstetter 918-581-8306