State audit uncovers problems at DSHS
An annual audit of the state's Department of Social and Health Services found that background checks were not always performed on people who provide services to children in foster care.
By Christine Clarridge
Seattle Times staff reporter
DSHS audit (PDF)
An annual audit of the state's Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) found that background checks were not always performed on people who provide services to children in foster care.
The audit, released this month, also found that $350,000 was paid in insurance premiums for employees who were no longer with the department and dozens of former employees had access to "sensitive" and "vulnerable" information in the DSHS computer systems.
Those were among the problems found in the audit of the department that consumes nearly one-third of the state's budget and is charged with providing services to its neediest and most vulnerable citizens.
According to the report, auditors from the state Auditor's Office looked at whether the department complied with state laws and its own policies and procedures, focusing on areas deemed to be at high risk for noncompliance, misappropriation and misuse.
Four areas of concern were noted in the audit:
• Department payroll accounts were not always updated, resulting in some employees being overpaid, some employees' wages being over-garnisheed and an overpayment of $350,000 in medical-insurance premiums for former employees.
• The department had no formal process for deactivating account access to people who were no longer employed with DSHS. The audit found that at least 100 ex-employees still had access to the department's computer systems and databases.
In a printed response with the audit, DSHS concedes the department should do a better job of updating payroll and insurance accounts and eliminating ex-employees' access to databases.
"We will reassess and strengthen our internal controls to ensure there are no delays in deactivating employees access ... when it is no longer necessary," the department responded.
• Western State Hospital, one of the state's three facilities for the mentally ill, does not have adequate controls to prevent the misuse of patient funds.
According to the auditor, numerous cashiers have access to the funds and the cash drawers and money vault are not always locked.
DSHS said corrective security and accountability measures were implemented at the hospital in November.
• DSHS had failed to conduct the criminal background checks on all child care and foster-care providers as required by law.
Auditors said they looked at individuals who had received a payment for services from DSHS then selected 200 individuals for whom they could find no background check.
The department was able to provide documentation of a background check on 174 of them.
Among the 26 remaining individuals, the auditors found two foster-care providers whose background checks were not current, one foster-care provider who disclosed a disqualifying crime and five providers whose files were flagged for additional reviews that were never done.
DSHS said it researched the cases highlighted in the audit and found that payments were made to individuals who had provided services, such as transportation, to foster children but did not involve individuals with whom children were placed.
Department spokesman Thomas Shapley said the department implemented a program in January that does not allow payments to providers who have not passed background checks.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or firstname.lastname@example.org