A doctor hired under contract to work in prisons overbilled the state by $567,125 over three years by falsifying time sheets, according to a state audit released Wednesday.
Over three years, the state Department of Public Safety paid the former contractor more than $1.1 million – $125 an hour for 8,864 hours of work.
Incomplete records limited investigators’ review to 6,198 hours of recorded work in the prisons. But investigators found that those hours included more than 4,500 hours of padding. The doctor had been at the prisons for just 1,661 hours. The hours on his time sheets did not match the sign-in logs at the prison gates.
The state Auditor’s Office referred the finding to the State Bureau of Investigation and Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman.
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The report from the state Auditor’s Office did not include the doctor’s name, but said he worked at several prisons, including North Piedmont Correctional Center for Women, Albemarle Correctional Institution, Lanesboro Correctional Institution, and Davidson Correction Center.
In early 2014, the public safety department tried to set conditions on the doctor’s work, according to the audit report. He disagreed with the conditions, and the state ended his contract in May 2014.
The audit recommends the public safety department seek reimbursement, and consider searching for discrepancies in time records the doctor completed before July 2011 to see if he owes more.
A report last year from the legislature’s Program Evaluation Division found that the public safety department had personal services contracts with dozens of doctors, dentists, pharmacists, and psychologists. Evaluators criticized the heavy use of personal services contracts, but the department maintained it could not match professional, private-sector salaries.
The doctor told audit investigators he had a “tacit agreement” with the public safety department to bill for more hours than he worked. He charged the department for eight hours when he went to large prisons, and for three hours for each visit to a small prison. Department administrators said there was no such agreement, but one prison employee told investigators that supervisors instructed her to sign time records she knew to be wrong. Several prison employees told investigators that department administrators told them not to verify the accuracy of time records, according to the audit.
In their response to the audit, public safety department administrators said they are pursuing reimbursement, reviewing other contract doctors’ time records, and watching for employee violations of its procedures.