Saturday, April 13, 2024

Auditors’ reports reviewed by lawmakers

by BIZ Magazine

(The Center Square) – Lawmakers on Tuesday reviewed recent Louisiana Legislative Auditors reports for the town of Arcadia and Elderly Protective Services under the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs.

Auditors staff outlined numerous findings against the town for the Legislative Audit Advisory Council. Those largely revolved around noncompliance with the Local Government Budget Act; requirements for spending American Rescue Plan Act funds; issues with employee timekeeping; and a lack of documentation for public meetings.

Auditors found the town may have violated state law by not recording and adopting a budget for fiscal years 2021 and 2022, which contributed to other issues, including failure to budget American Rescue Plan Act Funds and improperly paid incentives to town officials.

The latter involved a total of $53,000 in payments with federal relief funds to the mayor, town clerk, chief of police, council members and employees during the pandemic.

Auditors staff pointed to a Louisiana attorney general opinion and federal rules that suggest the payments appear to be prohibited bonuses because some who received them were not eligible, and because the payments were not tied to actual work performed.

Arcadia Mayor O’Landis Millican told the advisory council most of the bonus money has been repaid, while lawmakers on the council offered suggestions for justifying some of the pay for eligible workers.

Other issues discussed included more than $1 million paid to two vendors for tree cutting, debris removal, building maintenance, and repairs to town property between Jan. 1, 2021 and June 10, 2022 that were not supported by a contract or budgetary statements.

Millican said he was unaware of the requirements, and is now working with the town attorney and Louisiana Legislative Auditors to ensure proper procedures are followed in the future. Millican is doing the same to rectify issues with properly documenting board meetings and budgets, he said.

An audit of Elderly Protective Services unveiled limitations on the department’s process for receiving and responding to elder abuse and neglect allegations, and a lack of sufficient criteria to ensure staff make consistent decisions on cases.

Other findings showed the department missed required timeframes for assigning reports of abuse, or investigating and closing cases. More than 19% of reports were not assigned for investigation within the required timeframes, while workers failed to contact clients within required timeframes in 42% of cases between 2018 and 2022, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditors.

Some of the issues identified stemmed from low staffing and funding, high caseloads, and an ineffective data system.

“As a result of insufficient staffing, EPS caseworkers had an average monthly caseload of 85.6 cases during fiscal years 2018 through 2022, which is higher than those of at least 36 other states,” auditors wrote. “In addition, EPS’ current data system does not allow (the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs) to effectively monitor for program compliance and performance.”

Elderly Protective Services officials told the advisory council they’ve been working with Office of Technology Services for more than two years to implement a new data system that’s set to go live on Sept. 11.

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