A number of state employees at the Department of Children and Families routinely show up late for work and are still paid for a full day, state auditors reported Thursday.
The audit examined a sampling of 88 employees at four regional DCF offices and found that nearly a quarter were more than 10 minutes late 75 percent of the time.
“There is a serious lack of accountability over employee starting times. Employees appear to be compensated for time not worked,” state auditors John Geragosian and Robert Ward reported.
The audit reviewed employee key cards, emails, phone records and other documentation. Fifty-five percent of the employees audited at the Waterbury office were late 75 percent of the time, compared to 25 percent of Bridgeport employees, 14 percent in Willimantic and 7 percent in Milford.
“The Department of Children and Families should strengthen internal control over employee attendance to ensure that all employees adhere to scheduled hours and work the number of hours for which they are paid. Leave time should be charged for hours not worked,” the auditors said.
DCF — which has an annual budget of $821 million, about 3,200 employees and about 4,000 abused or neglected children in its custody on any give day — promised to make changes.
“The department agrees with this finding. To address this finding, Human Resources will offer supervisory training to supervisors and managers, ensuring time and attendance monitoring is an item that is reviewed. In addition, we will research attendance tracking systems,” the agency responded in the audit.
The department released a statement Thursday saying they have already made several changes in response to the audit.
State auditors also questioned an unexplained doubling in food costs during certain months at Solnit South in Middletown, a mental health facility run by DCF. The audit — which reviewed fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013 — reported that food purchases averaged $9,600 for the first 11 months of fiscal years 2011 and 2012 and then jumped to $20,000 in the last month each year. Auditors could not find an explanation for the increase. It did not recur in 2013.
“The department either suffered a loss of food inventory or failed to perform a proper inventory and record actual ending inventory amounts,” the audit states.
The department agreed with the finding and reports that meals issued are now tracked, and a monthly inventory report documents food supplies.
Other findings include:
- Employees at Solnit North in East Windsor — also a psychiatric residential treatment facility — may be getting free meals because the department had no procedures in place for determining who is entitled to a free meal and that awarding meal tickets to staff “was based on an honor system.” The department reports it has implemented new procedures so that only direct care workers who are required to work through meal time to supervise youth who are eating in the facility cafeterias are able to receive a meal without a charge.
The department was unable to prove it had completed criminal record checks for six foster care homes or private providers out of the 390 transactions they reviewed.
- The department did not license foster care homes in the 90-day window required in 66 of 134 cases reviewed. “There is potential that children may remain in inappropriate homes,” the auditors wrote.
- DCF is not claiming all the federal reimbursement money it is entitled to for care of foster children. The federal government reimburses DCF for some services provided to foster children but not others. The auditors found that DCF was seeking federal reimbursement for a standard 80 percent of its costs rather than attempting to determine what it was entitled to on a case-by-case basis. “This method resulted in DCF under-claiming expenditures by $160,137, forgoing $89,997 in federal reimbursement,” the auditors found in the sample of cases they reviewed.
- The more than 700 state vehicles provided for workers to transport children are not all needed. “It appears there is not a sufficient need for the number of vehicles assigned to DCF,” auditors reported, citing statistics on how little the vehicles were used. The department reports that a new system will be implmented by October 2015 to track state vehicle activity to ensure proper utilization and to return vehicles that are not being used sufficiently.