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The billions of stimulus dollars that have started flowing to San Diego will be rigorously audited and examined by layers of controllers at the local, state and federal level, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new federal stimulus czar just told me.

Laura Chick, the former Los Angeles controller, who was recently appointed to a new inspector general post overseeing the disbursement of federal stimulus money within California, was in San Diego today.

While paying a visit to city of San Diego Auditor Eduardo Luna, Chick heard about voiceofsandiego.org and decided she wanted to give us a call, she said.

In addition to the various layers of governmental oversight that will monitor the more than $8 million California is set to receive from the federal stimulus package, the media will play an essential role in overseeing how the money is spent, Chick told me. For that, she said, she’s grateful that we have been taking a look at issues related to the stimulus money.

“What you guys are doing is music to my ears,” Chick said.

I asked Chick about some of the findings I pointed out in this story, which examines the problems San Diego and the state faced the last time the federal government threw billions of dollars at a problem, in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In the story I mention the state’s lax auditing of San Diego’s spending of new homeland security grants, which were first issued in 2002. The state didn’t get around to checking how San Diego had spent millions of dollars in the grants until give years later.

I asked Chick why we should believe things will be different this time.

She said there will be more eyes looking at the stimulus money than ever before. And she said state agencies have been conducting preparedness reviews to assess whether the government agencies that will receive the money are prepared to spend it properly.

So far, those preparedness reviews have shown her that some state agencies have consistently failed to show they’re ready to properly manage and account for the federal money they will receive, Chick said. She said she’s currently paying visits to those agencies, acting as a sort of “bulldog” (her word) for the state, to ensure that the agencies get up to speed.

“I’m giving a heads up to those departments and saying ‘You’d better tighten up,’” Chick said.

She’s also been meeting with U.S. attorneys and the FBI around the state to discuss how prosecutors and law enforcement can prevent the stimulus money being spent fraudulently, Chick said.

WILL CARLESS

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