La. audit finds overpayments in foster care program
Published 10:20 am Wednesday, May 10, 2023
By Victor Skinner | The Center Square
Problems with billings at the Department of Public Safety and Corrections resulted in more than $100,000 in overpayments during the last fiscal year, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.
LLA Mike Waguespack published an audit report for the Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ Office of Juvenile Justice on Wednesday that evaluated the effectiveness of internal controls over the federal foster care program during the last fiscal year.
Auditors found OJJ did not adequately review foster care invoices submitted to the Department of Children and Family Services for reimbursement to ensure billings were accurately calculated.
“In a sample of two quarterly administrative invoices billed to DCFS totaling $831,311 from a population of four quarterly administrative invoices totaling $1,708,503, one (50%) invoice for the quarter ending December 2021 was calculated using incorrect expenditure data, resulting in billing errors,” auditors wrote.
“These conditions occurred because of a weakness in controls in the review of Foster Care administrative invoices,” the report read. “Federal regulations require OJJ to establish and maintain effective internal controls designed to reasonably ensure compliance with federal requirements.”
Auditors ultimately found $128,236 in overpayments considered questionable costs, though they reviewed less than half of the money invoiced.
“OJJ should strengthen controls to ensure administrative invoices submitted to DCFS are calculated accurately,” the report read.
OJJ Undersecretary Jason Starnes responded to the audit report in a letter to Waguespack on April 5 that concurred with the finding and explained how the agency has improved its billing process.
“Effectively immediately, an additional level of review and approval of the Foster Care administrative invoices will be added to the process,” Starnes wrote.
“Samantha Dunbar, DPS Staff Accountant, will continue to prepare the invoices, and submit the invoice and supporting documentation to Wanda Armwood, DPS Lead Staff Accountant for the first level review and approval. One the Lead Accountant approves, the invoices and documentation will be forwarded to A’shli Oliver, DPS Accounting Manager, for the second level review and approval.
After that, “the DPS accounting Manager will submit the invoices and documentation to OJJ staff for final review and approval,” according to Starnes. “Undersecretary, Jason Starnes will provide the final approval of the invoices after Karli Pullard, Program Manager at OJJ, and Cassandra Washington, Deputy Undersecretary at OJJ, have reviewed and approved the invoices submitted by DPS.”