ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization provides one-on-one mentoring programs for about 200,000 children.

But the government says the group needs to keep better track of its money.

The Department of Justice has frozen the funds it pledged to BBBS after an audit found that the group didn’t adequately oversee tax dollars allocated to its affiliates.

The Inspector General looked at three federal grants to BBBS totaling $23 million.

The money was supposed to support mentoring to tribal youth, children with parents in the military and other kids facing adversity.

But the audit found most of the money ($19.4 million) was improperly commingled with the group’s general fund, so there’s no way to track how, exactly, it was spent.

“This is one of the worst examples of accountability for a major nonprofit that I’ve seen,” said Tom Schatz, president of the group Citizens Against Government Waste.

Big Brothers Big Sisters not only depends on adult volunteers, it also relies on private donations and government funding.

The money goes toward background checks and coordinators who enforce the group’s standards.

Each adult-child match requires about $1,500 in support each year from the organization. The Twin Cities affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters supports 2,800 matches.

It was not involved in the audit, but it does depend on some of that funding that’s now frozen.

It stands to lose $96, 250 from a grant approved for this year, and about $35,000 that hadn’t yet been paid from 2012.

The CEO of BBBS, T. Charles Pierson, says they’re working to correct the accounting problems.

“We weren’t in full compliance with the grant guidelines and we certainly take responsibility for that,” he said. “We’ve been working proactively and positively with the Department of Justice and the office of Inspector General in addressing those things to (take) corrective action.”

Janine Akinradewo, director of communications for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities, said it won’t be easy to make up for the lost funds, but the group will find a way.

“Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities remains committed to serving our children and providing quality, professionally supported mentoring that allows Twin Cities young people to achieve success in life,” she wrote.

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