RALEIGH — The state Department of Health and Human Services office that examines programs for fraud and misconduct will be increasing its staff fivefold in an effort to improve its internal audits.
Aldona Wos, the secretary of health and human services, announced the move, which will bring 32 more positions to the Office of Internal Audit, which currently has eight people. Instead of creating new jobs, the department will move unused job vacancies over to the auditing division.
The Office of Internal Audit staff has a backlog of work, according to the department.
“In light of recent challenges in the department, particularly with unexpected shortfalls in Medicaid, DHHS is improving internal accountability and oversight” by increasing the staff, Wos said in a statement. GOP legislators had denied increases in federal Medicaid funding for the year.
The office is responsible for investigating programs under the DHHS umbrella, such as food stamps, Medicaid, substance abuse treatment and many others. Its job is to seek out waste, misconduct and fraud in these programs at the request of department leadership.
The staff is currently housed on the Dorothea Dix Campus with other DHHS divisions, and will stay there, said Ricky Diaz, communications director.
Under the leadership of Chet Spruill, who was hired to head the office in April, the auditors’ duties will expand. They’ll be asked to analyze the department’s programs and services and other records to make sure they’re doing everything right. They’ll also use more resources to follow up on audits done by the State Auditor’s Office, Diaz said. The release said the office will be “independent” in its analyses.
Beth Wood, the state auditor, said it’s difficult for any internal auditing division to remain independent and unbiased.
“Their check is being written by the person they’re auditing,” she said. But the department’s pledge that the office will be independent is promising, she said.
Wood’s office looks into DHHS federal programs and financial statements yearly, in addition to auditing new programs like NC TRACKS, a Medicaid bill-paying system that received criticism after it came online in July.
State auditors look at what the internal auditors have evaluated, and fill in the cracks of what hasn’t been taken care of – and those cracks have been pretty big in recent years, Wood said. But that could change when the internal office ropes in more auditors. The first wave of new hires, about five people, will be announced in the next two weeks, according to DHHS.