WASHINGTON -- The Job Corps ended its last budget cycle with a surplus of up to $42 million after temporarily freezing enrollment this year to deal with repeated deficits, a top Democratic lawmaker said.
Sen. Robert Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the federal job-training program, said Labor Department officials briefed his staff on the numbers last month without providing documentation.
On Monday, Casey wrote to the Labor Department asking for more details on Job Corps' finances, saying he wanted to make sure its financial issues are truly resolved. The program experienced shortfalls of $60 million and $30 million during its past two budget cycles.
"I am sure that you can understand the need to make an extra effort to be transparent regarding Job Corps' financial status," Casey said in a letter to Eric Seleznow, a deputy assistant secretary of labor.
Labor Department spokesman Stephen Barr said in a statement Monday that the surplus came from funds the agency had dedicated to Job Corps center contracts but had never spent because of cost-saving measures.
"These funds remain available for use and will be used to provide for important Job Corps program needs," Barr said.
An inspector general's report in May said mismanagement led to the Job Corps deficits and subsequent enrollment freeze, that started in April. Auditors found that program officials had poorly tracked costs and expenditures, inadvertently allowing vast overruns.
Jane Oates, a former Labor official who headed Job Corps during the period of financial missteps, resigned shortly before the report's release. The enrollment freeze ended after three months.
Officials reported that Job Corps finished its last program year with a surplus of $32 million to $42 million, according to Casey. The senator criticized the Labor Department for failing to provide a finite figure more than four months after the budget cycle had ended.
"When will an accurate surplus number be available?" Casey asked in his letter. "If the delay was due to financial reporting issues that contributed to the past budget shortfalls, please provide an update on what steps have been taken to improve financial reporting and data sharing."