Welfare department held up payments for thousands of workers, Pa. audit finds

    An audit of Pennsylvania’s Department of Public Welfare has found the consolidation of payroll services for home-care workers was botched, leading to pay delays for at least 4,000 workers.

    Workers were the collateral damage when a contract went to a single payroll provider that was not ready for prime time, said state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

    “You gotta have better oversight of the program. That means there’s got to be real dates, there’s gotta be real timelines, real items to be met,” he said Thursday.

    The Boston-based Public Partnerships Limited received a multimillion-dollar contract in 2012 from the state to take over financial management for home-care workers who bathe and attend to the disabled and infirm. Previously, more than 30 organizations throughout the state had handled that job.

    The audit found DPW mismanaged the various payroll organizations severely, but instead of correcting compliance problems, the agency chose to consolidate all the services under a single firm.

    Kathleen Kleinmann, who directs a Washington County agency that matches disabled people with home care attendants, said it was obvious to her pay delays would occur because the consolidation wasn’t being phased in gradually enough.

    “We were screaming long before the effective date of the switch. We could see it coming,” she said. “And nobody listened.”

    DPW Secretary Bev Mackereth said she stands by the agency, which executed the contract before she became secretary, but says she wished there had been more communication with workers.

    Things are running smoothly now for workers who have completed necessary paperwork with the new provider, according to Mackereth. DePasquale, however, said the paperwork is far from straightforward.

    Payroll for some workers was fouled up for several weeks. They did receive back-pay, but DePasquale said their lives were interrupted, as was the care of some of their clients.

    The state this year will spend $7 million more because clients switched to costlier forms of home care, he said.

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