LA - Audit finds state payment problems : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

NEW ORLEANS  The state agency that collects child support shortchanged some parents for months and violated Louisiana law by destroying certain records, the legislative auditor said in a report issued Monday.

The Office of Family Support also did not properly reconcile client records in its child--support escrow fund, which handles $17.8 million a month, the report said. The Depart--ment of Social Services, which oversees the family support office, said it is taking steps to correct the problems identified in the audit.

"Those payments are being properly disbursed now," DSS Secretary Renea Austin--Duffin said Monday.

The problem with distributing payments affected custodial parents who received money under two programs, Aid to Families With Dependent Children and Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program, and owed money to the state and federal governments.

Prior to a federal law that went into effect in October 1998, any back child support collected during a month above the paying parents monthly obligation went to satisfy the custodial parents debt.

The new law required the entire amount collected by the state go to the custodial parent.

The report said of 48 test cases, 29 had from $16 to $6,143 paid to the state that was owed to the custodial parents.

The payments were not made until four to 14 months after collection, exceeding the two days normally allowed by state law.

"The departments failure to provide custodial parents with child support payments in a timely manner may have put undue hardship on the custodial parents and their children," the report said.

In a written response included with the audit, Thomas Joseph, director of DSSs finance office, blamed the problem on a lack of computer programming resources.

He said a new system has been put into place to ensure that all back payments go to custodial parents as required by federal law.

The audit also said the Office of Family Support violated record retention laws when it destroyed supporting documentation for child--support payments received from July 1, 1999, through Jan. 31.

Joseph said in his response that DSS has contracted with Lockheed Martin to make permanent copies of all such records on compact disc.

According to the report, DSS also did not properly reconcile client accounts to detect such errors as undistributed money. Joseph said the agency is in the process of putting in an accounting system that will solve that problem.

-- Doris (, August 08, 2000

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