During her nomination hearing Tuesday, lawmakers questioned Acting Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Michelle Gilman about what they largely felt was a lackluster audit of the school construction program.
The school construction program, which is now overseen by DAS, has been under fire for the past two years and is the center of a grand jury investigation after questions were raised about how millions of state grants were awarded under its former director, Kostas Diamantis.
Gilman was nominated to the post after the federal investigation came to light, a fact lawmakers on the Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee acknowledged.
“You walked into a beehive or worse,” Rep. David Yaccarino, R-North Haven, said.
But that didn’t stop lawmakers from continuing to grill Gilman about the program and an audit of it that was tardy by 11 months.
Officials from several school districts and municipalities alleged that Diamantis steered them to use certain contractors for the projects.
However, the 23-page independent audit didn’t look into those allegations, it simply looked at 111 audits of those projects housed by the state.
Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said it’s the legislature’s right to understand what’s going on and the picture today is no more clear than it was 11 months ago when Gilman first testified.
He said that’s why the legislature wanted to have the Auditors of Public Accounts look at the situation “and the legislature was dismissed.”
“Are you willing to expand the scope of the audit?” Kelly asked.
“Not at this time,” Gilman said.
The audit did not include outreach to the school districts and there was no on-site work done at the school districts.
Gilman assured lawmakers that under her leadership the agency was moving to “rectify the wrongs” with those projects and have already implemented the recommendations, which were largely administrative and procedural.
“We feel we’ve taken appropriate steps around this program,” Gilman said. That does not mean the work is done.”
Gilman tried to explain that the scope of the audit was limited. “This was not an investigation of the school construction program,” Gilman said. “It was a focus on the audit program.”
She said they don’t have the ability to investigate themselves.
Kelly said something happened here that got the federal government involved.
“We don’t know what it is. And I’m not hearing there’s any drive to get to the bottom of that,” Kelly added.