Phyllis Gilmore, secretary of social and rehabilitation services,
said "someone in elementary school could have done better
record keeping" than those at centers receiving aid for the physically
disabled. (February 2012 file photo/Topeka Capital-Journal)
Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Phyllis Gilmore had harsh words for centers receiving public aid for the physically disabled Wednesday, saying she was "in disbelief" at the shoddy accounting revealed by recent audits.
"Someone in elementary school could have done better record keeping," she told the House Appropriations Committee.
The audits covered 13 independent living centers throughout Kansas.
Rep. Dave Crum, R-Augusta, said the audits are serious cause for concern, even if they don't show indisputable evidence of fraud.
"They were having a hard time determining whether there was fraudulent intent because the documentation was so poor," he said. "I guess you could cover fraud with poor documentation, but they weren't sure that was the intent."
Crum said the audits "raise the issue of, is there a significant amount of waste in the P.D. (physical disability) waiver system."
Another SRS official said there was corruption at a Garden City living center, where public money was reportedly used for an open tab at a local bar and restaurant.
But Shannon Jones, of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas, said that center was a "bad apple" and not representative of the others.
"They’re gone," Jones said. "They’ve been gone for 18 months. That’s old history."
Jones said the four audits released thus far uncovered no evidence of fraud and the others are still in draft form and the agencies have the right to appeal them.
"They want to be accountable, they are accountable, and I think when all the audits have exhausted their appeal relief, the findings will be much different," she said.
When asked about the bookkeeping concerns, Jones said the audits began with fiscal year 2008 — before the centers received any training in what documentation the state required.
Ami Hyten, assistant executive director of the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center, said she was "disheartened" that the first public comments on independent living centers from Gilmore, appointed in February, would be so negative.
"Obviously our center would heartily object to that characterization all the way around, at least with respect to our operations,” she said.
Hyten said her center was audited last year and recently began reviewing the draft of the audit report with SRS.
"Certainly there's nothing in our draft that our agency is in the process of resolving with SRS that would indicate any of the problems that appear to have been referenced in the hearing today," she said.
The independent living centers in question serve physically disabled Kansans through a Medicaid waiver that currently has a waiting list of about 3,500 people. That list, which some have been on for three years, has led to complaints to the federal Department of Health and Human Service's Office of Civil Rights that the state is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act under the Supreme Court's Olmstead v. L.C. decision.
Health and Human Services recently referred the complaints to the Department of Justice after failing to come to a voluntarily settlement with the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback. The governor released a statement castigating that decision as a pathway to "litigation that is costly and does nothing to provide more services."
Jones suggested a connection between the audits and the complaints.
"To me it’s odd that we’ve been on this witch hunt with the centers, dating back to the time we started filing Olmstead complaints with the Department of Health and Human Services,” she said.
Gilmore told the appropriations committee the audits "began in 2007 as the result of a review by the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration" that determined the state needed to improve accountability and monitoring of funds.