Controller Finds DHS Handing Out Money Like Candy

Sept 8 2010 005 (Medium)When the Department of Human Services doles out cash, it’s supposed to receive an audit from the recipient within 120 days. Ha! The latest report by City Controller Alan Bukovitz , covering the agency’s finances between 2006 and 2009, found that DHS gave out nearly $81 million to sub-contractors without receiving follow-up audits within the allotted period (some of the repots were completed but over a year late, DHS reported). Over $15 million of the money came from the city’s bank account, the rest from state and federal funds.

Well, so what? That doesn’t mean that anything inappropriate happened with the cash. It’s just red, tape, right? Not so fast. “Failure to obtain the required audit reports for grants put millions of taxpayers’ dollars at risk,” said Butkovitz in a press statement.  “It could jeopardize the ability to receive future grants.  It also puts the city at risk that the grantor agency could demand a refund.”

DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose responded to the report, saying the agency has new policies in place to ensure audits get submitted, and will not continue to work with service providers who don’t comply. So far, so good, we guess.

DHS, responsible for providing safety and support for at-risk youth, has worked with budgets of between $600 and $700 million per year over the second half of the decade. Damn.  Eighty-one million is just a drop in the bucket! Agency employees have also been the subject of a neglect case resulting in a child’s death and investigations for fraud and underperforming employees (pdf) in recent years. Sooo, if poor accounting and accountability practices are the only problems here, maybe that’s a good sign.

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