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September 19th, 2013 By German Lopez | News | Posted In: News, Welfare

Hamilton County Reprimanded in Latest State Audit

Department of Job and Family Services cited for multiple errors

hamilton county department of job and family servicesHamilton County Department of Job and Family Services - Photo: Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services

The Hamilton County Department of Job and Family Services (HCDJFS) was reprimanded in a state audit released Thursday that uncovered inadequate protocols and failures to correct previous audits’ findings.

But HCDJFS spokesperson Brian Gregg says a lot of the audit’s findings could be outdated because they’re based on data from 2011. “We’re working on information that is two years old but was just presented to us,” he says.

HCDJFS, which handles the county’s social services and welfare programs, was criticized for not keeping proper documentation and failing to conduct various checks required to gauge whether federal, state and local funds should be used for child support services.

Gregg blames the inadequacies on a bout of temporary chaos caused by funding reductions and layoffs, which he pinned on state government cuts from 2008 that cost HCDJFS roughly half its budget. Since then, he says the county has retrained staff to manage the agencys smaller size.

Gregg also noted that the sampling size for the findings — 25 — was fairly low.

“You can get a bad batch,” he says. “I don’t want this to be indicative of the program.”

Instead, Gregg points to county-by-county data for child support that put Hamilton County above all other metropolitan counties in Ohio for cost effectiveness. The data, produced by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services in 2012, found Hamilton County is getting $28.52 in child support for every $1 it pays staff to collect support. In comparison, Cuyahoga County’s ratio was $8.56-to-$1 and Franklin County’s was $11.62-to-$1.

“We’re probably the best and most efficient metropolitan county in the state when it comes to child support collection,” Gregg says.

The audit also found HCDJFS paid more than $330,000 in excess rent in 2011, more than $24,000 of which was allocated to local funds while the rest was charged to state and federal funds. A 2010 state audit found similar excess rent charges.

The agency told the state auditor’s office it will continue working with the county budget office and prosecutor to correct the lease agreement that led to the excess rent.

“That’s a result of a way the state interpreted a federal law in 2010,” Gregg says. “We’ve had that lease from ’93 on. There was a change in 2010, and we’re now working with the county to get in compliance.”

HCDJFS employees were also found to be inadequately tracking their working hours, which the agency says it’s now correcting by setting up a new computer system.

The new findings were heaped on top of old errors found in previous state audits, including several misused funds. Many of the old errors remain uncorrected.

But none of the new findings indicated that HCDJFS has to refund money to other government agencies.

“We feel good that there were no findings for recovery. We don’t owe anything. These few things that they did find are managerial, and we’ll work them out,” Gregg says.

The same didn’t apply to one case of overcharge — totaling $2,400 — at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, which the Sheriff’s Office says led to an investigation and criminal charges against the property officer supervisor as well as new policies to protect payment systems in the future.

 
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