TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey officials say a nonprofit agency that provides housing and services to people with developmental disabilities will repay the state $353,000 for expenses that were questioned in state audits, including two cruises taken by staffers and agency clients.

Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez told The Star-Ledger of Newark that Allies Inc. of Hamilton Township (Mercer County) must repay the money by June 30, which is when the state’s fiscal year ends.

Allies has said it never intentionally misspent state funds. It issued a statement Friday stating that it was “not completely clear on permissible expenditures,” and noted organizational changes that have been made to help prevent further problems.

Questions about the spending were first raised in August 2009, when the state comptroller’s office released an audit that questioned some spending by Allies.

Among the disputed matters was the nearly $112,000 the state was billed for two cruises — one to the Caribbean and another to the Mediterranean — that were taken by 56 Allies employees and 56 of its clients.

Allies has cited the cruises as an example of its commitment to helping the disabled lead more fulfilling lives, and noted that clients’ families and its employees paid about $102,000 of the $217,200 cost for the cruises.

It has since agreed re-pay the difference to the state.

Following the comptroller’s audit, the Human Services department contracted out for a further audit of Allies spending, which found about $1.2 million in questionable spending.

Pam Ronan, a department spokeswoman, told the newspaper that Allies justified $845,000 of that amount and is repaying the difference.

Among the expenses the agency will repay are $1,999 for the installation of a GPS navigation system in a company car and $9,344 in hotel charges to attend conferences.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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