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N.C. Opinions: Winston-Salem

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Better oversight for grants

From an editorial Thursday in the Winston-Salem Journal:

Public-private partnerships can be the best of both worlds for North Carolinians.

For taxpayers, a nonprofit can provide an important public service inexpensively, and often with greater expertise than could a government agency. For the nonprofit, the grants often pay the light bill.

But over the years, North Carolinians have sometimes found that some funds sent to nonprofits are not spent well, or are spent without proper recordkeeping.

In one extreme case recently, the former executive director of Historic Downtown North Wilkesboro was charged in connection with more than $46,000 missing from the nonprofit.

Better monitoring of public money going to nonprofits is needed. Legislation before the General Assembly this year would help. In the 2011-12 budget, the state made $700 million in grants to private nonprofits.

The bill appears to have a number of admirable provisions.

House Bill 58, sponsored by Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, would require state agencies to withhold up to 2 percent of all grant funds made to the nonprofits. That money would then be used to oversee expenditures and performance.

The weakness in the public-private approach has long been the lack of oversight. Many nonprofits work hard at being good stewards of public money. But some are filled with well-meaning volunteers who lack the proper administrative training and skills to oversee public money.

We think HB 58 would begin to address that weakness, and the more discouraging occurrences of outright graft.

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