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Saturday, February 24, 2001

Audit faults
human services

By Lisa Asato

A lack of planning and oversight has led to a poorly coordinated computer system at one of the state's largest departments, according to a state audit.

The $1-billion-a-year Department of Human Services houses four divisions, each using a different computer system to track, verify and calculate benefits for its clients, said the report, which was released yesterday.

This leads to duplicated data, increased chance of error and computer systems that can't share information, the report found.

The department has failed to meet state information-technology planning guidelines or to form a review committee that would manage the interests of the department as a whole.

Department Director Susan Chandler said she agrees the system needs improvement. The four divisions operate on separate systems because they have their own federal requirements and reporting systems, she said.

"(The divisions) want to focus on their own job," Chandler said. "We need to do a better job at looking across the department" as opposed to one division at a time.

The department's four divisions serve the elderly, poor, disabled and abused through programs such as Child Protective Services and QUEST, the state's Medicaid program.

The audit also said the department has missed opportunities to upgrade its system with federal funds that would have covered 75 percent of costs. It recommended the department seek federal funds, now offered at 50 percent of costs.

The department recently formed an oversight Information Technology Steering Committee, but it's too soon to say whether the committee will be effective, the report said.

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