Newsroom > DHHS News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2011

CONTACT
Jeanne Atkinson, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-8287, Jeanne.atkinson@nebraska.gov

DHHS Disputes Sections of State Auditor’s Report

Lincoln – Kerry Winterer, CEO of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, commented today on the State Auditor’s review of Families Matter.

“There are a number of recommendations with which we strongly and fundamentally disagree,” said Winterer. “We respect the role of the State Auditor and cooperated fully, providing a significant amount of information as requested; however, we cannot agree with all of the findings.”

Winterer said he questions the auditor’s authority to examine issues that are not issues of fiscal accountability. He said the management decisions in question were made to protect the overall integrity of the child welfare/juvenile services system.

Todd Reckling, director of the DHHS Division of Children and Family Services, said there is agreement with some findings and DHHS has already made changes to strengthen oversight of the lead contractors and of financial issues. In June, Vicki Maca was named Families Matter administrator in the agency’s two service areas with lead contractors to provide full-time oversight of the initiative. Over the past several months, additional financial oversight has been implemented.

Winterer said several areas of fundamental disagreement with the Auditor’s report remain:

  • DHHS has the legal authority to award contracts without a competitive process for services including child welfare services provided to individuals. Nonetheless, DHHS chose to issue a Request for Qualifications for these contracts, allowing all interested bidders to compete. The process was conducted publicly and many organizations participated.
  • Visinet was not overpaid. DHHS has legal authority to settle contract disputes and the amounts paid to Visinet and on Visinet’s behalf to employees, foster families and subcontractors were within the amount allowed under the contract, and were made to protect the integrity of the system.
  • DHHS reviewed all Visinet records and took all that were useful. The majority of records reviewed were unrelated to DHHS contracts or were duplicative of records DHHS already held.
  • DHHS has worked diligently to resolve remaining Boys and Girls Home contract issues. Efforts to resolve these issues began immediately after BGH ceased operations as a lead contractor and continue.
  • Payments to the lead contractors are consistent with fixed cost contract requirements, which do not require billings for each payment.

Winterer said the process DHHS had in place to respond to the Auditor’s requests could have been more effective and the agency has made changes to the process to respond to future audits; however, he took exception to the characterization that DHHS circumvented the law or the intent of the law. “DHHS responded in good faith. DHHS spent many hours researching and responding to the Auditor’s requests,” he said.

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Note: A summary of DHHS’ responses to the report can be found on the DHHS website at www.dhhs.ne.gov


PDF Summary of DHHS Response to State Auditor Report