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(The Center Square) – A new state audit raises questions about where Wisconsin’s broadband money was actually spent.

The Legislative Audit Bureau released its report Thursday. Auditors say the state’s Public Service Commission didn’t track just how much internet companies actually spent to expand broadband service across the state.

“PSC required telecommunication providers to request reimbursement for project costs and submit supporting documents, such as invoices, payroll reports, and receipts. PSC also required providers to attest that their reimbursement requests complied with the terms of the grant agreements, were related to the projects, and were properly supported,” the report notes. “However, providers were not required to attest that the reimbursement requests were for amounts they had actually paid to construct the projects.”

Auditors say almost all of the 384 supporting documents that PSC reviewed for reimbursement requests did not indicate the amounts that internet companies actually paid to construct the projects.

“We found that 337 of the 384 documents (87.8 percent) were invoices, and 47 documents (12.2 percent) were payroll reports, receipts, and land easement contracts,” the audit states. “An invoice is not proof that a provider paid a cost because, for example, a supplier may accept payment for less than the full invoiced amount. Ten of the 337 invoices included information, such as stamped or handwritten notations, indicating providers had actually paid the invoiced amounts. However, the invoices and land easement contracts that did not indicate the amounts actually paid by providers to construct the projects.”

The Audit Bureau said there is no actual tracking of $4.9 million of the $5 million in grants that they reviewed.

Auditors also said there’s no documentation to prove the work was actually done.

“PSC did not document its efforts to verify that telecommunication providers had constructed the broadband infrastructure for which they were reimbursed,” the report noted. “Providers included in their final reports photographs of infrastructure that was constructed. PSC did not document its contacts with businesses and residences in the areas covered by the projects, its attempts to ascertain whether it was possible to order broadband service at locations in these areas, or the information it had obtained from the Federal Communications Commission.”

In all, the Public Service Commission gave internet companies over $100 million in coronavirus stimulus money to work on broadband projects over the past two years.