July 10, 2021 – WKRN by: Gerald Harris – Tennessee Democrats are calling for an audit of all COVID-19 relief spending from Governor Bill Lee and his administration. This comes days after Governor Bill Lee started a campaign to pay for tourists’ flights to four major Tennessee cities.
According to the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group lead by Governor Lee, $8.4 billion federal dollars from COVID-19 relief bills have been sent to Tennessee.
“We deserve to know answers,” Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a Nashville Democrat said.
The renewed call for an audit of the governor’s spending comes after Lee announced $250 flight vouchers with Country Music singer Brad Paisley for out of state tourists just a day after ending $300 unemployment checks.
“Myself, as well as other Tennessee taxpayers, have a lot of concerns about the fiscal integrity issues facing the state of Tennessee and if this governor has been lining the pockets of the politically connected while their working families are struggling,” Clemmons said.
The letter, lead by Clemmons and signed on to by 11 other Democrats, accuses Governor Lee of spending nearly half a billion dollars on no-bid contracts, like the recalled sock masks.
“This is really about the potential mishandling of the $490 million dollars of Tennessee taxpayers’ money,” Clemmons said.
The Comptroller’s office released a statement to News 2 saying: “Much of our audit work related to the spending involved from the contracts awarded under the governor’s emergency authority is currently in progress. Those audit results will be made publicly available in reports that will begin to be released this fall through March 2022. The bulk of the work related to federal funds will be reported in the state’s annual Single Audit Report which will come out in March 2022.”
“We’re asking the comptroller to simply do his job and provide us an audit. This isn’t a partisan issue; this is something those of us on both sides of the aisle have a sincere concern about,” Clemmons said.
However, Lt. Governor Randy McNally, a day after criticizing Governor Lee’s spending, says he expects funds to be used correctly. His office released a statement saying: “The Comptroller has been fully engaged in how the COVID relief funds have been disbursed as a member of the Fiscal Stimulus Accountability Group. Between the FSAG, the expansion request process, fiscal review and the comptroller, Lt. Governor McNally is confident that these federal funds will be spent appropriately.”
Governor Bill Lee’s office sent a statement saying: “The Governor formed the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group to ensure proper fiscal management of federal relief dollars, with regular, public meetings and reports to provide full transparency throughout the process.“