An audit of the Department of Social Services covering fiscal years 2010 and 2011 found that supplemental state assistance or “cash” benefits for the aged, blind, and disabled were paid after the death of the individuals.
The Auditors of Public Accounts sampled 19 recipients of the program and found “monthly benefit payments totaling $7,684 were issued after their deaths.”
In addition, transportation payments totaling $537 were paid on behalf of the recipients of those services following their deaths and “DSS has not attempted to recover these overpayments,” auditors wrote in their report.
DSS did not disagree with the finding. However, it noted that in 2013 it reminded its staff to “discontinue assistance when you are notified a client has died.”
The audit released Monday, which only covers six months of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration, also determined that the agency failed to report three separate incidents in which employees tried to obtain $75,000 in funds from the state for personal gain.
Auditors found that DSS knew of the incidents and began conducting internal investigations, but failed to report those to the auditors and the state Comptroller. DSS said it did notify the auditors verbally, but failed to put it in writing — a failure that the auditors said did not comply with the law. The auditors also said the fraud occurred in 2011, but DSS didn’t point out it out until 2013, a full two years after the theft.
DSS said all three employees were terminated and their cases were referred to the Chief State’s Attorney for prosecution.
The audit also found that the agency failed to disperse Social Security Income checks to clients who qualified.
“The balance of SSI funds not distributed by DSS as of June 30, 2011, was $159,311,” auditors found. “Based on our review of the list of individual SSI checks that totaled this balance, there was approximately $139,186 being held by DSS with transaction dates of May 11, 2011, or earlier. DSS should have determined the proper distribution of these checks or should have returned the funds to SSA if the location of the client could not be determined.”
DSS agreed with the finding and said it is working to correct the problem.
The audit also found that DSS failed to comply with former Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s 2009 directive to all agencies to conduct an expedited review of all cellular phone and Blackberry assignments to determine which were necessary.
The auditors said they tested 20 cellular phones and Blackberries on an April 2011 billing form and discovered that 10 of the phones were used less than 10 minutes over the course of a three-month billing cycle and the actual monthly service charge paid for the 10 phones was $45.
DSS also requires their employees to reimburse them for any personal calls made on the phones. Auditors found that at least one individual paid the state $3.70 for personal calls.
DSS said it issues Blackberries for email communication only and only those authorized by Commissioner Roderick Bremby have cellular service attached to the devices. DSS stressed in the audit that Blackberries are critical because they “enable managers ‘on the road’ and in off-site meetings to stay in touch with their staff and assignments, stay current with commissioner’s directives, increase productivity all-around, and make sure DSS is current in communication technology.”
Auditors also found that DSS incurred $196,353 in salaries and fringe benefits for 10 employees who were on administrative leave beyond what is allowed under state regulation and union contracts. DSS agreed with the recommendation and told auditors it reorganized its human resources department as recently as July 2013.
Auditors also were critical of the agency’s ability to internally audit its finances.
“During the late 1990s, DSS had an internal audit unit of ten,” auditors wrote. “Since then, there has been a gradual depletion in the staffing of the unit. Throughout the audited period, the internal audit unit had consisted of only one auditor.”
DSS disagreed with the finding.
“The department has an adequate auditing and monitoring function,” DSS wrote.
The agency goes onto explain that it doesn’t see a need for an internal auditing unit because the cost would outweigh the benefit.
In total, the auditors repeated a dozen recommendations it had made in previous audits and pointed out that the agency had resolved about seven of its previous recommendations.