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Senate minority leader calls for suspension of payments to Amistad America

Published July 03. 2014 4:22PM   Updated July 04. 2014 12:22AM

Sen. Len Fasano, R-North Haven, has issued a press release calling for the state to suspend any future direct payments to Amistad America until the independent financial audit that was due several months ago is completed.

In a July 3 letter to the state auditors accompanying the release, Fasano said, “Amistad America has been using state taxpayer funds with little to no accountability to the state. Until we get some answers as to how the taxpayers’ money is being spent, we should pull back the appropriation.”

Once the audit is completed for the governor’s budget office by Cohn Reznick, state auditors should undertake a separate review, “should you find that the Cohn Reznick audit does not satisfactorily answer our questions or is incomplete,” the Senate minority leader said in his release.

Noting that the replica ship Amistad “is a piece of history and a treasure we should protect,” Fasano said he will propose legislation to give state agencies more oversight and ability to place performance conditions on budget line items.

He cited recommendations from the state Department of Economic and Community Development to the governor’s office in September 2013, which included:

1. Giving state agencies statutory authority to place mission-based performance conditions and metrics on legislatively directed line items.

2. If key metrics are not adhered to, the overseeing agency could deny or delay payment until satisfactory information is obtained.

3. Annual reporting to the legislature on the line items.

“We have all seen the reports of Amistad America owing substantial debts to Connecticut small businesses,” Fasano added. “Now is the time for action. There are too many questions lingering about where this taxpayer money is going and how it is being used. ... Without transparency and oversight of these taxpayer dollars, we should not be cutting checks in the first place.”

This year’s state budget appropriates $359,776 for Amistad America.

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