2nd audit ordered for troubled state office

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2nd audit ordered for troubled state office

Wednesday, January 12, 2000

SPRINGFIELD (AP)  Citing continuing constituent complaints, state lawmakers Tuesday ordered that a management audit be done of Illinois' troubled new office for distributing child-support checks.

Ever since it started up Oct. 1 under a state contract with DuPage County, the office has been the target of criticism from custodial parents complaining of checks arriving weeks late  if at all. In the meantime, the state has provided millions of dollars in emergency payments to families needing help.

Gov. George Ryan last week ordered an audit be done by Bank One, under a $159,000 contract. But lawmakers on the Legislative Audit Commission indicated they also want State Auditor General William Holland to do a management audit.

"There is a shroud of secrecy. Somebody doesn't want us to know what is going on," Rep. Mary K. O'Brien (D-Coal City) said of the problems. "We need the truth."

But one lawmaker voiced concern that the audits might actually hinder any progress in fixing the problems.

"There's enough problems out there now that we create more by bringing in the auditor general plus Bank One," said Sen. Frank Watson (R-Greenville).

Holland said his audit would be done by March 15 with existing state resources and be more in-depth than Bank One's, which is due this month.

Public Aid Director Ann Patla testified her agency would cooperate with Holland's auditors, and said she takes full responsibility for "all of the planning up front for the project and the delivery." She said Bank One's findings would be made public.

Patla said there were fewer problems now at the state disbursement unit in DuPage County Circuit Clerk Joseph Kagann's office, but improvement has come after her agency alone spent about $500,000 in overtime to help out.

Kagann, reacting to the lawmakers call for an audit, said in a telephone interview: "We have nothing to hide and if they want to send in 20 more auditors I don't really care."

Patla indicated that Kagann's office now experiences complications with 2 percent of the checks, down from 3.2 percent in December and 11 percent in October.

"As far as I am concerned, zero is the acceptable number but I am not fooling myself here," she said. "I think there will always be some percent of checks that will come in, that will need a little more research and then be sent out."

Until Oct. 1, counties were responsible for delivering child-support payments that businesses deducted from workers' salaries. Then the federal government required the state to centralize the work at a new "state disbursement unit."

That created mass confusion over where businesses should send money and what information they needed to provide. Computer glitches at the new payment center also complicated things.

Patla said about 5,000 checks are being returned to employers because of inadequate information that was provided about who should get the money. But some lawmakers were more eager to blame the disbursement unit than employers.

"The problems that have resulted and the expenses that have been incurred have been in large part because the state disbursement unit has not done its job," O'Brien said.

Kagann said O'Brien was "misinformed." He added that his office has distributed $105 million and handled 850,000 transactions since taking over the child support distribution system.

"That's not bad since October 1st. Some things are working," he said. "Are they working 100 percent? No."

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), January 12, 2000


Thanks for your continuing interesting posts, Homer.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), January 12, 2000.

When the subject of Bureau of Support came up in Cuyahoga County in 1981, I was INCERDIBLY fortunate (I think they seriously injured 4 angels that time) that I was ACROSS the aisle from the person who was "blessed" with the re-vamping project.

This is an area where NO ONE is going to satisfy EVERYONE all the time. I think that 3.?% is doing pretty well. This is also one of the biggest political footballs around, and tends to serve as a GREAT punching bag.


-- Chuck, a night driver (rienzoo@en.com), January 12, 2000.

We've had similar problems with child support payments here in Florida during October and November. Don't know if they ever got it completely fixed. Saw the poor young mothers on tv news who already had a hard enough time making ends meet. The dads had paid into the system, but the monies hadn't been distributed for a month or two. Sucks.

-- Lurkess (Lurkess@Lurking.Net), January 12, 2000.

People in Rockford, IL have been severely affected by this child support payment problem. My question is: WHY WON'T THE ILLINOIS STATE GOVERNMENT ADMIT THIS IS A Y2K PROBLEM ?! WE ALL KNOW THAT IT STEMS FROM Y2K !!

-- BrianL (bliebenstein@camcar.textron.com), January 12, 2000.

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