Audit: Eligibility, other errors plague Utah assistance programs
More than half of the Utahns who got job help under the Workforce Investment Act in the past four years had errors in their case files including mistakes that gave them some assistance they were ineligible to receive.
One in four Utah kids covered by the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in the past five years also had errors in their files, according to an audit of eight assistance programs within the Department of Workforce Services.
But more than half of the children qualified for coverage and were only enrolled in the wrong programs.
The state audit examined low-income programs that included unemployment insurance, Medicaid and food stamps. Several saw a spike in mistakes in fiscal years 2009 and 2010, as the state launched its new automated eligibility system and demand for assistance was surging.
But State Auditor John Dougall, a former lawmaker, said he remains concerned about CHIP and the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program.
"It would be fair to say that on some of these programs we recognize improvement," Dougall added. "But on these two, we're not seeing results of that activity."
The department agreed with the audit's findings and is increasing training and making computer system changes to address them, it said in its response.
WIA uses federal dollars to help clients boost their job skills and earnings. Auditors examined payments in 39 cases and found at least one error in 23, or 59 percent, and questioned $19,613 in costs. They projected the cost of errors for all 2012 WIA cases at $908,125 a drop from the $2,157,228 in question the year before.
Auditors scrutinized 60 CHIP payments in 2012, totaling $4,427 in costs, and noted problems in 12 cases, or 20 percent.
• One fourth of the 20 percent were ineligible for CHIP.
• Half were eligible but enrolled in the wrong CHIP program.
• About one-sixth should have been enrolled in Medicaid instead.
• Flawed documentation in the rest made it unclear whether the clients qualified.
The audit estimated questionable costs for the total CHIP population in 2012 at $1 million in state and federal funds, the lowest tally since 2006.
But Audit Director Van Christensen recently told lawmakers that the actual dollar impact of errors was minimal when children were simply in the wrong program, and their care would still have been covered.
The state does seek reimbursement from clients when assistance was given in error, Christensen said, but he noted, "These are people of very modest means who have difficulty repaying."
In a review since the audit, "We don't see many cases of improper overpayments. It's something that we haven't been able to verify as a concern at this point," said Joe Demma, communications director for the department.
"There is always room for improvement in any system," he added. "I feel confident that Utah's DWS is in a strong position to keep improving."
The 2012 audit was performed under former State Auditor Auston Johnson.