HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s state auditors released a report Thursday that found repeated financial and administrative mistakes have been made at the Department of Children and Families and its various facilities.
The 76-page document examined fiscal years 2011, 2012 and 2013. It includes 25 recommendations for improvement from the auditors, including 15 that were included in a previous report released in 2013 and covered fiscal years 2009 and 2010.
“There were a lot of repeat recommendations,” said John Geragosian, the Democratic auditor of public accounts. “I think there are issues of management and oversight within the agency — some major, some less so.”
In both reports, Geragosian and Republican auditor Robert Ward recommended DCF come up with food inventory procedures to ensure free meals are only provided to employees who are entitled to receive them, such as workers supervising or providing direct care to patients.
The latest report, which focused on meals at DCF’s Albert J. Solnit Psychiatric Center for children in Middletown, found “some employees may be receiving free meals that they are not entitled to” because of an honor system in place.
The document also found unexplained large purchases of food in June of 2011 and 2012. While purchases of food in each of the previous 11 months for both years averaged $9,600, they jumped to $21,000 in June 2011 and to $20,000 in June 2012.
In response, DCF said it adopted new procedures for obtaining free meals at the Solnit center last year, to make sure only those workers entitled to free meals receive them. DCF said it also has developed a new spreadsheet to track meals provided at all of the agency’s facilities.
“Every meal is now tracked, and a monthly inventory report documents food supplies,” the agency said.
The report released Thursday highlighted a range of issues at DCF facilities, from a piece of missing fine art to a lack of controls concerning state-issued debit cards. The auditors also found in some cases that DCF employees were seeking mileage reimbursement for their personal vehicles when a state-owned car was available.
DCF said a new system for tracking state vehicle activity will be in place by October.
The auditors also determined there was a “serious lack of accountability” and confusion over employee starting times at several DCF facilities they reviewed, and that some staff members were arriving more than 10 minutes late in 2012 and early 2013 and apparently being compensated for time not worked. Geragosian said improvements had been made by the time state auditors returned for a follow-up visit later in 2013. However, one manager in DCF’s Willimantic office arrived late 100 percent of the time during the second two-month review.
DCF said its supervisors and managers in all offices have been re-trained to maintain closer oversight and monitoring of workers’ schedules and attendance. The agency noted, however, there should be some level of flexibility given to social workers so they can meet with families, often later than normal state work hours.
Thursday’s report followed another state investigation by the Office of the Child Advocate into DCF’s juvenile detention facilities. That recent study found delinquent youths have been subjected to unlawful and repeated restraint and isolation at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School for boys and the neighboring Pueblo Unit for girls in Middletown.
While DCF said it has taken steps to end certain restraints, state lawmakers are planning to hold legislative hearings on conditions at both facilities.
Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, who has called on DCF Commissioner Joette Katz to step down, said the auditors’ report shows that “the chaos” in the juvenile detention facilities “extends to the agency’s finances and operations as well. These are not isolated problems.”
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