Louisiana News

Repeat issues in Louisiana audit plague juvenile law enforcement agency


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(The Center Square) – The Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections’ Office of Juvenile Justice continues to struggle with properly tracking employee time and attendance, according to a recent report.

Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack issued a report on Monday analyzing the agency’s controls over financial reporting, compliance with laws and regulations, and accountability of public funds.

While auditors found most controls for expenditures were adequate, they cited discrepancies with time and attendance records highlighted in previous audits that continue to plague the agency.

“For the third consecutive engagement, OJJ did not maintain adequate internal controls over time and attendance to ensure that accurate data was entered and processed into the payroll system,” the report read.

Auditors reviewed a selection of 30 time and attendance records for the period July 2020 through January 2022 and found issues with six, or 20%.

“For three employees, hours worked and leave taken per timesheet and ZT02 report did not agree with auditor’s recalculation, resulting in discrepancies in the number of leave hours taken, shift differential charged, and overtime earned,” according to the report.

Another employee was paid for eight hours of work, rather than eight hours of sick leave, while three employees or supervisors failed to sign 10 leave slips, one timesheet, and one overtime form.

“These differences occurred because supervisors did not detect errors on employee timesheets and time administrators did not verify accuracy of hours on the ZT02 report,” auditors wrote. “Failure to implement good internal controls over time and attendance increases the risk that payroll errors and/or fraud could occur and remain undetected.”

The agency's policy requires supervisors to approve timesheets, and for administrators to review ZTO2 reports.

The auditor's office also reviewed expenditures for purchasing cards, controlled billing accounts for travel expenses, payroll and personnel, placement services, professional medical services, and acquisitions and major repairs, and found the juvenile agency in compliance.

The report shows salaries and related benefits comprised 45% of the agency's expenditures in fiscal year 2021 and 48% through Dec. 31 in fiscal year 2022. Placement services – which include contract payments for meals, positive behavior programs, treatment plans, counseling, psychiatric consultation, and educational services for youth – totaled $16.5 million in 2021, and $9.3 million through December 31, 2021.

Professional medical services, most involving a health care company that provides on-site services for youth housed in secure care facilities, totaled about $8.3 million in 2021, and $3 million through the first half of fiscal year 2022.

Acquisitions and major repairs related to updating the agency’s offender management system totaled $8 million in fiscal year 2021, while there was no cost recorded for fiscal year 2022 through Dec. 31. Other acquisition and major repair costs totaled $5.6 million in fiscal year 2021, and $322,000 for fiscal year 2022 through Dec. 31, according to the report.

Undersecretary Gearry Williams of the juvenile agency responded to the report’s findings in a letter to Waguespack on Oct. 13 that blamed the issue with time and attendance records on staff turnover, and outlined plans to improve.

“The agency has experienced turnover in positions associated with timekeeping as well as the supervisory ranks over the last two years. We will continue to work with leadership teams, at all of our sites, to provide training related to time and attendance,” Williams wrote. “In addition, the agency will also discuss ways that we can work with the Human Resources section, of the Department of Public Safety, to coordinate trainings and refreshers for all OJJ primary and backup timekeepers and supervisors.”

Williams also promised to review the auditor's report with timekeepers and supervisors, and “will emphasize the importance of timesheet accuracy and the role of the supervisor, in the time and attendance process,” he wrote.

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