The Auditors of Public Accounts released a report Thursday that found that the Department of Children and Families made repeated mistakes when it came to tracking purchases, employee start times, and food.
Fifteen of the auditors’ 22 recommendations for the child welfare agency, which has an $821.4 million budget and 3,240 employees, were repeated from previous reports.
The report released Thursday covers 2011, 2012, and 2013. It found twice the amount of food was being ordered in June 2011 and 2012 at the Albert J. Solnit Psychiatric Center for children in Middletown. DCF was unable after an internal investigation to pinpoint the reason for the increase in food orders. The average monthly food purchases for the facility were $9,600, but in June of 2011 and 2012 they jumped to $21,000 and $20,000, respectively.
Its internal report “indicates that the increase in food purchases cannot be attributed to a significant event,” auditors said in their report. In DCF’s written response to auditors, the agency said “a new spreadsheet has been developed to track all meals issued by each facility.”
The auditors also found that some employees at the same facility may be receiving free meals to which they are not entitled. On occasion a free meal pass may be issued to an employee when someone is visiting for a meeting or new employee orientation, but a pass isn’t even needed to get a free meal.
When pressed about the free meal policy, DCF told auditors that they don’t have any procedures in place to ensure that employees not presenting a meal ticket or pass were entitled to receive a free meal.
The auditors said they were told the free meal distribution was based on the “honor system.” The auditors concluded then that “some employees may be receiving free meals that they are not entitled to.”
DCF said it implemented new meal procedures at the facility in 2014.
Auditors also found employees arrived late to work and still filled out their time cards as if they had been there on time.
“There is a serious lack of accountability over employee starting times,” the auditors wrote. “Employees appear to be compensated for time not worked.”
In the Willimantic office in 2012, the percentage of employees late 75 percent or more times over the six-month period was 43 percent. In the Milford office in 2012, the percentage of employees late 75 percent or more times over the two-month period was 37 percent.
Most of the employees in the Willimantic office improved and in 2013 only 14 percent were arriving late 75 percent of the time. However, at least one supervisor was late 100 percent of the time. In the Milford office only 7 percent of the employees were late 75 percent of the time in 2013.
DCF doesn’t dispute the finding and said it would “offer supervisory training to supervisors and managers, ensuring time and attendance monitoring is an item that is reviewed.”
The auditors also discovered that the agency wasn’t requiring its social workers to turn in the receipts for debit card purchases made on behalf of the children in their care.
Debit card purchases totaled $2.6 million over the three year audit period. Auditors reviewed 15 debit card purchases, five per year, and found that none had corresponding receipts. They were told submission of receipts for debit card purchases were not required.
However, that means, “there is no assurance that debit cards were used for their intended purpose,” the auditors said. “Debit card logs do not provide information on the intended use of the card and the child the purchase would benefit.”
DCF said it would be great to have receipts, but they doubted that would be possible.
“The department believes having the ability to have receipts for all purchases on file would be beneficial, but it is highly unlikely the department would be able to gain compliance from clients,” DCF told the auditors. “The current debit card system allows the department to designate a group of vendors that sell the authorized merchandise and limit purchases to just those vendors.”
The report also found that DCF does not have effective internal controls in place to ensure that relative foster homes are licensed within 90 days. In some cases it took up to 154 days to review and approve a license.
The auditors report comes after two reports detailing abuses at DCF’s two locked facilities in Middletown.
“Where and when is this going to end?” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said.
Fasano has called for DCF Commissioner Joette Katz to resign. Katz, although controversial, was renominated this year by Democratic Gov. Malloy, who was re-elected to a second term.
“How much more evidence do we need to take the health and protection of children seriously?” Fasano said. “Over the past few weeks, multiple investigative reports have shown that there is a pattern within DCF of limited protocols, limited accountability, and a severe lack of reporting that proliferates throughout the system. The auditors’ report reveals that valued resources have been squandered as a result of absolute and total lack of leadership by the Commissioner.”