Main Streets Grant Program is ‘Highly Susceptible’ to Fraud and Abuse

A $5 million D.C. grant program designed to help small businesses is “highly susceptible to fraud, waste, and abuse,” according to the preliminary results of an independent review requested by D.C. lawmakers in the wake of a series of complaints about its management.

The District’s Office of the Inspector General isn’t finished probing the Main Streets program just yet, but OIG already warning the Council that it ought to consider a series of changes to shore up some questionable accounting practices and avoid “allegations of grant steering” by the program’s managers at the Department of Small and Local Business Development. The OIG outlined these concerns in a May 23 letter to the Council and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration that was sent along to Loose Lips, promising a full report “later this year.”

The summary of the investigation’s preliminary findings doesn’t deal much in specifics, but it does lend serious credence to accusations of favoritism and mismanagement from current and former employees of nonprofits competing for the Main Street grant money. The Woodley Park and Upper Georgia Avenue programs, specifically, have drawn allegations of major problems with how the city chooses to award these grants and how it exercises oversight of the money. In both cases, people close to the programs have claimed that DSLBD officials have sought to help certain nonprofits competing for the money and punish others, turning a blind eye to shoddy financial practices in the process.

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