Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Continued Reports of DHS inefficiency

I have reported here before that the Michigan Department of Human Services is woefully inefficient.  We just received a new audit from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG). Unfortunately, things have not improved. Read on...


Gongwer News Reports: DHS Inefficient, Costing the State Millions

Here are excerpts from a story from the March 12 Gongwer News.


The Department of Human Services (DHS) is struggling to accurately and timely identify who is qualified to receive assistance, costing the state millions in misspent assistance dollars and millions more in potential federal sanctions and lost incentives, said a report from Auditor General (OAG) Thomas McTavish released on Friday.

DHS, which is responsible for determining eligibility for cash, food assistance, childcare and Medicaid cases, didn't effectively catch or fix errors in determination in the four years reviewed by the audit, from October 2002 through November 2006, the audit said.

Among the chief finds of auditors was that DHS mistakenly sent out payments in fiscal year 2006-06 in 7.5 percent of cases, which the report attributed to ever increasing caseloads from workers.

Although DHS has made strides in its system, the error rate in Michigan in 2005-06 was still 1.5 percent higher than the federal government tolerates, opening the state to economic sanctions much like the $89 million the federal government initiated for the fiscal years 1995-02.

Not only is Michigan inaccurate in its approvals but it's slow, too, the report said.

Michigan ranks 45th in its turnaround time with 81 percent of clients receiving approvals within the 30 days required by the federal government. That compares to Massachusetts, which ranked first and informs nearly 99 percent of its clients about
their case status within a month.

In order to progress further, DHS said, it needs more "resources," because, although officials agreed with many of the audit's suggestions, they can't comply with them without more funds.

Among the fixes the department said it would initiate with more money is a study of how many workers it needs to handle caseloads and what tasks could be done by other staff members to increase worker availability for clients.

With more than 75 percent of workers and 87 percent of managers reporting that caseloads are too high, the study will likely find that more staff is needed, but the department said it can't hire more workers without additional funding.

As usual, the Department immediately cries "We need more money! We need more staff!" They told the OAG they would use additional dollars to "do a study".  In fact, the OAG said that "DHS did not conduct a workload analysis to determine optimal
caseworker staffing levels" and not only did they not do that last year, they hadn't done it in 2001-02 after being told they should by the Auditor General. So now they say they will if we give them more money?

You may read the audit for yourself. Here is the link

Does DHS need more staff? Do they have too many managers and not enough case workers? It is hard to get those answers; the Department is not forthcoming. The bottom line is the Department of Human Services has been woefully inefficient and inept for years and it continues to be in spite of repeated Audit Reports reporting the problem and even suggesting the solution. This is a problem that cannot be fixed by the OAG and it cannot be fixed by the Legislature. It must be addressed by the "Executive". That's right folks; I am talking about the governor and her department heads.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but my Transparency bill, which would expose the entire state budget, including that of the DHS, to the sunshine for everyone to see and closely examine, would go a long way toward resolving many of these

On March 12, 2008, a joint committee of the Legislature met to ask for answers from the Department. What was their answer? We need more staff. We need more time. We are implementing a new program in the NEXT TWO YEARS. Once we have that in place, it will be better.

Here is hoping that Director Ismael Ahmed, the recently appointed Director of DHS can effectively address the issue.

No comments: