Sunday, May 26, 2024

Louisiana Legislative Auditor points to almost $31 million in questionable state spending

by BIZ Magazine

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor has raised questions about almost $31 million in spending and financial management by state entities during the first quarter of the fiscal year that began July 1.

The auditor’s office is required by law to report any findings of inefficiency, mismanagement or fraud worth at least $150,000 to the Legislature’s joint budget committee.

The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness’ public assistance program was responsible for the bulk of that spending, about $24 million. That total includes $15 million in expense reimbursements not supported by proper documentation, almost $2.9 million in completed work that was not within the scope of an approved project, more than $3.4 million in contracts and purchases that did not comply with applicable federal and state rules, and reimbursing more than $2.4 million in work that did not comply with federal regulations.

The LLA says it reviewed 1,596 expense reimbursements GOHSEP submitted from Jan. 1 through June 30 totaling more than $225.2 million.

GOHSEP concurred with LLA’s assessment of the questionable spending, while noting that processes are in place to resolve those issues.

“We would also like to note that our review process necessitates that any exceptions identified within your report are required to be addressed before project closeout,” Lynne Browning, assistant deputy director for publica assistance at GOHSEP, wrote in her response to the LLA’s report.

Other findings mentioned in the quarterly report include:

• The Acadiana Area Human Service District failed to bill payers for $384,070 in services. Management agreed with the findings and planned to correct the problems.

• GOHSEP’s hazard mitigation program spent almost $2.6 million for work that was not within the scope of an approved project and reimbursements not supported by applicable documentation, the LLA says. As with the public assistance program, processes are in place to resolve the issues prior to project closeout, GOHSEP says.

• The Louisiana Department of Health allowed 315 providers to bill $293,080 for behavioral health services beyond 12 hours in a given day, which is against state law in most cases.

LDH Secretary Courtney Phillips said the department reviews payments after the fact, which allows the state to recoup money when appropriate while avoiding unnecessary service denials for patients.

• LSU-Eunice failed to maintain adequate controls over cash receipts, LLA says. School officials blamed most of the problems on the third-party product they used for human resources.

• LLA says LSU-Shreveport doesn’t keep tabs on outstanding student accounts as well as it should, resulting in a $2.4 million shortfall of student tuition and fees as of Jan. 31. LSU-S officials say they are implementing new processes to track payments and prevent students who owe money from registering for more classes.

• River Parishes Community College also lacks effective controls over outstanding student balances, LLA says, resulting in more than $1 million in balances more than two years old. School officials say they are taking corrective action.

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