Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why Our Taxes Are So High!

The above linked article lists just the newest way Los Angeles County social workers have found to steal from the taxpayers. And they have found so many ways to steal from the public - it's a wonder they ever do any actual work.

My only question is - what's worse? The brazen corruption in local and state government that none of our elected officials is willing to do anything about - or the fact that the below article excerpt does not mention how many (if any) of these hundreds - yes - hundreds of criminals when you add up all different schemes discovered in just one year year - are being sent to jail - or even being fired.

The answer, likely, though - is zero on both counts. But don't worry. They'll eventually get theirs. Yes, they will all be getting their life long pensions and free medical coverage as their rewards for stealing from the public.

Hundreds of L.A. County social workers either liars or really bad drivers, audit suggests
By Troy Anderson, Staff Writer
Article Last Updated: 08/26/2008 11:36:40 PM PDT


360 of 690 claims between July 2005 and November 2007 were for single-vehicle accidents based solely on employees' own statements that they were work-related.

80 employees filed about 170 claims - an average of two or more per employee.

One employee submitted four claims in a year, all single-vehicle accidents, totaling about $6,000.

One employee filed two claims totaling $5,800 for damage that occurred on days the employee's timecard indicated she was not at work.

In yet another stinging audit of Los Angeles County's Department of Children and Family Services, a new investigation has found that hundreds of social workers in the past two years racked up $1.1 million in vehicle-damage claims that included a host of questionable payouts, officials said Tuesday.

Auditors said one social worker sought reimbursement for vehicle damage while off-duty, others forged supervisors' signatures on claims and dozens of claims for windshield damage were paid out at an average cost of $950 when the usual cost is about $265.

In one case, auditors said, a social worker claimed a vehicle was totaled and filed a claim exceeding $10,000 - more than the vehicle's fair market value - even though a police report described the accident as a minor "fender bender."

And overall, auditors said a widespread lack of management oversight and controls in reimbursing the county's 3,000 social workers for work-related vehicle damages from July 2005 to November 2007 resulted in nearly 700 claims.

"We took a sample and discovered 80 employees had filed approximately 170 claims," said acting Auditor-Controller Wendy Watanabe. "That's an average of two or more claims per employee. That seems very excessive.

"And more than half of the claims were single-vehicle accidents. ... Many involved windshield damage, which appeared to be excessive. That just seems very high."

`Lax in oversight'

DCFS Director Trish Ploehn acknowledged the problems and said the department has strengthened management controls over the claims process.

"The review found we were lax in our fiscal oversight and authorized a number of reimbursements without ensuring the required procedures were followed," Ploehn wrote in a letter to her managers.

"This failure to follow procedure negatively impacts our integrity as a fiscally responsible agency. This is especially troublesome at a time when we are expecting reductions in our county and department budget."

The audit follows a spate of similar inquiries that have found systemic problems in the department. In August 2007, auditors found that the DCFS misspent millions of dollars on unnecessary and overpriced supplies and violated county spending limits.

The next month, auditors found that social workers pocketed at least $100,000 in unwarranted overtime and bonus pay. And last November, an audit found that social workers spent tens of thousands of dollars on meals and entertainment, including tickets to the musical "Wicked."

Auditors launched a review of the agency's damage claims after a routine review of vehicle claims found that the number of DCFS claims was proportionally higher than other county departments.

Of 690 accident claims, 360 were for single-vehicle accidents, many involving windshield and tire damage or driver error, like running over parking lot spikes and backing into poles.

Auditors also found that 80 social workers filed 170 accident claims.

"For example, one employee submitted four claims in one year, all single-vehicle accidents, totaling approximately $6,000," auditors wrote.

Another social worker received more than $600 in rental car expenses for 23 days, which appeared excessive, auditors wrote.

"The employee's vehicle required minor bumper repairs for $1,100, which included eight hours of labor," auditors wrote.

Meanwhile, the DCFS also paid 28 of 58 employee claims reviewed without all of the required documents and approvals. On five of these claims, the required documents were not approved by the employees' supervisors.

"For example, an employee approved her own field itinerary by signing her supervisor's name and putting her initials next to the signature," auditors wrote.

"Another claim had three different signatures for the division chief, but the division chief only signed one of the forms."

In response to the audit, Watanabe said the DCFS now requires senior managers to approve any work-related vehicle damage claims.

And to help reduce the costs for windshield damage, Ploehn said, the DCFS has contracted with a company that comes to DCFS offices to fix windshields.

"I had told my administrative staff that I wanted a 100 percent audit of every process we've got to make sure we are using our money wisely, particularly in light of the potential budget cuts," she said.

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