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Archive for November, 2009

DHS audit focuses on funding sources, not misuse or misspending

Posted by Iahmed on November 2, 2009

A routine audit by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) made sensational headlines recently.

In reality, the audit questioned how DHS spent $163 million – or about 2.5 percent of the $6.5 billion in federal funding we received in the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years.

The audit does not say DHS misused the money, and it certainly does not say we misspent it.

What it does is point out areas within DHS where auditors felt we either should have used a different portion of the federal money to fund a program, where we should improve our internal processes and, yes, where there’s room for improvement.

Let me be perfectly clear: DHS used all of that money to help people in need.

Michigan Department of Human Services’ 10,000 employees are charged with providing services to millions of state residents – from cradle to grave.

Our department educates new parents and caregivers on how to put babies to sleep (on their backs, alone in a crib with just a tight-fitting sheet) and helps families pay for their loved ones’ burials. We help people pay for food, get medical coverage and cover emergencies like avoiding a heat shut off.

The largest areas the auditors questioned was about $155 million used to fund college scholarships for low-income youths under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and which public dollars we used as matching money to receive additional federal funds.

DHS disagrees with the auditors’ interpretation of federal guidelines that cover those two areas. We based our decisions on federal publications and other states’ practices; and also consulted with an independent expert, who advised us we handled these two areas properly.

The disagreement is over a definition. It’s not an allegation of misspent dollars or violations.

The AOG report also questioned about $3,000 in the child day care program, which helps working parents pay for child care. The AOG had already addressed this issue in a previous audit and DHS has taken steps to correct the issues raised.

That includes a new payment system with new checks and balances, such as requiring both parents and providers to report the hours the provider worked and more internal case reviews to help identify common errors and improve accuracy.

We cooperated fully with the OAG during the process and received the audit in the spirit in which it is created: as a tool to make sure we are good stewards of taxpayer dollars. We support the process and believe it is necessary and right to hold us accountable for the use of these federal dollars.

As soon as auditors pointed out areas where we could shore up our programs and practices, we either made changes or have specific plans in place to implement their recommendations.

We remain committed to our mission to protect the state’s vulnerable children, adults and families, while also ensuring we remain fiscally responsible.

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