City and state work to find cause of overbilling

By Andy Jenks - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - An update now on what Social Services Departments at the state and city level are doing to figure out how nearly four million dollars in taxpayer money was improperly billed.

Both the state and the city claim to be working together to find the answers. But early on the sides appear to be far apart in getting that done. When Richmond's Department of Social Services helps people its costs are reimbursed by the state.

"So it may be foster care maintenance payments. It could be costs that are related to benefits or temporary assistance to needy families, TANF. But also operational things like rent or personnel," said Marianne McGhee, Virginia Department of Social Services Spokesperson.

Friday it was announced that Richmond overbilled the state $3.8 million, the result of a "major financial management failure." That day, a spokesperson said the cause could be related to billing, or "coding" changes enacted by the state.

"Our coding errors began in January of this year, partly in response to the changes that were made in the system," said city spokesperson Tammy Hawley last Friday.

But today a state DSS spokesperson, claimed to be unaware of any such changes. Which isn't to say that the possibility is being dismissed, though it does mean each side has more work to do in their respective reviews?

"The most important part of the review is that it's thorough, it's timely, and it's accurate. And it reveals something for us," McGhee said.

If Richmond is indeed asked to pay the state back, it could write a check, or, instead have the money withheld from future reimbursements. Before that decision is made both sides remain focused on finding answers to the most basic of questions.

"We're going to take a look at what the billing errors were, and perhaps why they occurred and what we  can do to make sure they don't happen again," said McGhee.

The city auditor is also looking into this. But his findings are not expected for at least a couple of weeks but probably longer than that. All the while, the city maintains that client services will not be impacted.

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