Auditors have told a key state agency that it could be doing a better job at monitoring state employees and collecting money owed to the state.
The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) has broad reach over Connecticut state government and does behind-the-scenes work that makes other state agencies run smoothly.
Among its responsibilities is to monitor how workers drive state-owned vehicles.
According to auditors, over the past three years the DAS failed to investigate more than half of the public's complaints about the driving of state workers and failed to take away vehicles from offending state employees.
The DAS also collects money from people who were in prison or received state assistance and later came into a cash windfall. Those people are supposed to pay the state back, but the auditors estimated the DAS leaves as much as $5 million on the table per year by not pursuing those cases.
The DAS disagreed, and said it actually increased collections in the tens of millions, disputing the math auditors used.
Auditors also found fault with how DAS tracks change orders on state construction projects, an area rife for potential abuse. When looking at a snapshot of cases, auditors found change orders totaling several million dollars without proper approvals. The DAS told NBC Connecticut that new software should solve this issue.
The DAS sent responses to the NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters about some of the auditors' findings:
On Automobile Fleet Management
"DAS will further refine its complaint reporting process so State Agencies fully understand their obligations regarding investigations and their timely completion. Additionally, we are developing a report for DAS Commissioner to share with other State Agency Commissioners when investigations remain outstanding and terminating the use of a state vehicle may need to be considered. All ATAs will receive additional training on all requirements."
On Money Collection
"The agency disagrees with the auditors’ revenue estimate of missed opportunities for collection in their audit finding. By their own admission they say they are only “inferring” that DAS could collect an additional $5.4 million dollars. DAS –Collections currently processes more than $1.2 Billion dollars a year in paid claims on behalf of the State of Connecticut. Between FY2013 and FY2015, the time period reviewed during this audit, DAS achieved a net increase of $16.7 million in revenue through ongoing process improvements. The technology does not currently exist for the auditors to actually demonstrate that an additional $5.4 million could or would be collected. And you will note they did not provide that data. Their assumption remains an “inference”
Continuous process improvements and some technological advances may allow us to collect more money moving forward. DAS continually strives to identify and implement process improvements, streamlining our workflows to make the best use of our current staff and resources in order to minimize costs and maximize revenue to the State of Connecticut."
On Construction Change Orders
This audit reflects issues first identified with the former Department of Public Works (DPW). DPW did not become a part of DAS until July of 2013. This audit was conducted on FY ’13-’14 and identified some prior shortcomings of providing construction services relying strictly on a paper based system which are not reflective of modern construction practices. These historic problems began to be addressed after DPW became DAS Construction Services. The first order of business was to create a system that reflects modern construction practices and eliminates the issues identified in the audit.
We now utilize state of the art construction software - PM Web - to address issues such as accounts receivable. This system has helped us establish new more effective accounting procedures for construction projects and has established better internal controls and reduced the need for change orders dramatically. We have a new change order form and no changes are implemented without proper signature on the forms. We believe future audits will reflect these improvements as use of the new PM Web software continues.
In addition, additional quality control steps have been established. The Project Managers Manual has been revised to better articulate each step of the project closeout process. Many of the various forms associated with the closeout process have been revised to better document the process. The PM Web system will track and provide notice of critical milestones so that the project closeout progress can be reviewed on a real time basis.