According to a limited review of Bethany House’s compliance with the Nassau County Living Wage Law released July 28, the emergency shelter implemented all the county comptroller’s office recommendations made in an Oct. 8 audit report last year.
Bethany House, a Baldwin not-for-profit agency that provides housing to homeless adult women and women with children seeking emergency shelter, implemented all 26 recommendations stemming from nine audit findings, based on collected data from Jan. 1, 2017 through Dec. 31, 2018.
The office commended Bethany House on its efforts. The latest report states, “This illustrates Bethany House’s dedicated efforts towards strengthening its internal controls to improve the accuracy and efficiency of its operations and to decrease the risk for fraud, waste and abuse.”
The 2020 audit identified several Living Wage Law issues at Bethany House, including failure to maintain adequate documentation, questionable payments exceeding $35,000, no formal petty cash policy, unallowed petty cash expenses, related party transactions and nepotism, violation of the state Non-Profit Revitalization Act, co-mingling of the organization’s funds with personal funds and underpayments for work.
In response, Bethany House put in place policies to ensure that codes and guidelines for non-profits, federal regulations and its memorandum of understanding with the county were all followed; cease all cash payments to actors within the organization; establish a petty cash policy; maintain proper documentation; institute a code of ethics with a conflict of interest policy; and reimburse under-compensated employees.
“Under our new Executive Director Doug O'Dell's leadership, Bethany House has addressed and implemented every finding and recommendation raised by the Nassau County comptroller's report," John Galante, chairman of the Bethany House Board of Directors, told the Herald.
He further said, "We have also made significant progress introducing new programs and services to our guests. It is our goal to help the women, and women with children we serve, to be empowered to build sustainable lifestyles."
While Bethany House has provided emergency food, clothing and shelter, case management, trauma and community volunteer activities services, center officials said they look forward to implementing transitional home services and subsidized independent housing and after-care services after finalizing the audit recommendations.
These new services include semi-independent housing, outside the social services system, child development, educational support, and advanced therapeutic services and employment placement.
Bethany House officials said the services should lead to career-focused employment, opportunities for higher education, transition apartment housing, subsidized permanent housing, and the building a network of community and family support to achieve self-satisfaction, fulfillment and intergenerational security.
In 2018, the comptroller’s office established a policy for implementing follow-up audits for every reviewed organization, department or institution. Comptroller Jack Schnirman said “this follow-up procedure ensures that audit recommendations are implemented, further increasing efficiency and accountability within our county government.”
The Bethany House audits can be found on the Open Nassau webpage, created in 2018 when Schnirman partnered with Nassau County Executive Laura Curran to open and modernize county finances. Investing nearly $1.3 million since 2019, his office launched a user-friendly data platform, where members of the public can access county records, report financial issues, and keep updated on smart audits and equity reports.