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Auditors say Developmental Disabilities Administration corrects costly flaws

State auditors say Maryland's Developmental Disabilities Administration has corrected flaws that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

In a report last October, the Office of Legislative Audits found that the agency failed to collect $5.5 million in federal reimbursement for services provided to disabled adults, improperly spent $600,000 to purchase motor vehicles, and did not bill local governments $1.4 million for services.

In an update released Tuesday, the auditors said the agency has since collected $2.2 million of the $5.5 million and has implemented a new system to ensure timely submission of forms for federal reimbursement. The remaining amount cannot be collected due to a two-year limit on claims.

The agency stopped purchasing motor vehicles with money from a tax increase on alcohol that was earmarked for other purposes, auditors said. And it is making progress on getting counties to pay their share of disability services and recovering state overpayments to contractors that local jurisdictions had already paid directly.

"I think there was a marked change in the administration's efforts and willingness to deal with these issues," said Thomas Barnickel, a legislative auditor. "They've done a pretty good job of getting through some of these issues."

The state has also made substantial progress on its monitoring of contractors it pays more than $750 million annually to provide services to more than 24,000 disabled adults, auditors said.

The monitoring is conducted by several county health departments and five private companies, but the state had no procedures to "verify that consumers received services," auditors wrote.

Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, whose department oversees the Developmental Disabilities Administration, said he is "pleased" that the follow-up report highlights "the positive results of the measures we've instituted to strengthen internal controls."

"Operating better translates into improved support for Marylanders," Sharfstein said in a statement.

The agency, with a budget of nearly $1 billion, helps about 23,000 disabled Marylanders with services at home and at facilities and with employment.

The 2013 audit was issued at about the same time a federal investigator found that the agency owed the federal government $21 million for billing Medicaid for ineligible costs associated with room-and-board for people with disabilities.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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