Missouri auditor's office questions performance review of Social Services Department

Saturday, November 26, 2011 | 5:06 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri auditor's office is questioning how some costs were handled to conduct a performance review of a state agency responsible for checking to make sure rules are followed in the state's Medicaid program.

The audit found that salaries and travel expenses for two people who helped conduct the review of the Department of Social Services' Program Integrity Unit were paid through the department's budget, though the employees didn't perform duties related to the unit and reported to managers at another agency, the Missouri Office of Administration. About $139,000 was spent over two years, according to the audit.

The audit, released this week by State Auditor Tom Schweich, called for the governor's office and Office of Administration not to use money in the Social Services Department's budget in such a way. Although the audit also identified a few problems with some of the unit's annual report, it rated the unit's operation as "good" in the areas covered by the review.

In a written response included with the audit's findings, the Department of Social Services said it sought the performance review to ensure the unit was doing everything possible to protect taxpayer money and wanted the evaluators to be independent.

"The review needed to happen quickly while using reviewers independent of the department," department officials said in the response. The department "believes it was perfectly appropriate to temporarily pay salaries of state staff for work being done on behalf of the unit."

The department noted that the money recovered during the first quarter of this fiscal year has doubled to $4 million. Also, 222 Medicaid providers were terminated during the first quarter of the 2012 fiscal year, which is more than the total terminations for the previous three years.

Auditors said that during their review, no one indicated that it was the Social Services Department that had requested the performance review.

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