CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Governor's Office staff say many of the problems identified in a comprehensive study of the state Department of Health and Human Resources can be fixed with internal policy changes and will not require legislative action.
The $380,000 audit, commissioned last August by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office, uncovered millions of dollars in waste by the agency, along with a 30-percent high turnover rate among employees, $7.1 million in overtime pay last year and other inefficiencies.
Auditors for the Pennsylvania-based Public Works identified 78 recommendations for department and estimates found the state could save or generate $56.7 million over the next year and $283.7 million over the next five years if it follows that advice.
Results of the audit were presented to Tomblin's office nearly two months ago, just weeks into the regular legislative session.
And although some state newspapers including the Sunday Gazette-Mail were able to obtain copies of the study last week, the Governor's Office did not plan to release the report until later this week.
That means, barring a special legislative session, lawmakers will have to wait until next January before acting on the report's recommendations.
Public Works also was responsible for a 2012 audit of the state's education system, which Tomblin said he used to craft a wide-ranging education reform bill passed by the Legislature last month.
Hallie Mason, the governor's director of public policy, said unlike the education audit, most of the recommended changes to DHHR would not require legislative action.
Mason said the DHHR study is separated into two parts: a new strategic plan for the state's health care system, and a performance review of DHHR with recommendations to make the department more efficient.
She said most of the recommended changes could be met by internal policy changes. For changes that do require legislative action, Mason said chairman of both the House and Senate health committees intend to review the study during interim meetings this year.
Turnover leads to huge overtime costs
Auditors identified several damning statistics about the state's largest agency, including a 30 percent monthly turnover rate among employees.
The national average turnover rate for non-farm jobs is 3.3 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Last fall, there were 600 vacant positions throughout DHHR. That number has remained constant over the last several years, according to the report.
The Bureau for Behavior Health and Health Facilities had the largest number of vacant positions, 209, although the DHHR secretary's office had the highest percentage of vacancies, at 17 percent. That office had 35 vacant positions at the time of the report, out of 278 full time equivalent positions.
Auditors blamed those vacancies, in part, on the department's cumbersome hiring processes.
It takes three months or more to fill vacant positions, the report said, and the hiring process is plagued with "approvals and bottlenecks at numerous steps."
Because of holdups in the hiring system, DHHR largely relies on overtime pay to complete its necessary work.
DHHR spent $7.1 million for overtime in fiscal year 2012, up more than 35 percent from 2010, when the department paid $5.2 million in overtime.
Ninety-five percent of that overtime spending came from the Bureau for Children and Families, which paid $1.9 in overtime last year, and the Bureau for Behavior Health and Health Facilities, which paid $4.8 million.
The secretary's office saw a 560 percent increase in overtime between 2010 and 2012, going from $8,801 to $58,149.
Auditors recommended the DHHR establish an emergency intervention team to fill vacant positions in the department and drive down the turnover rate.
The report estimates West Virginia would save $3.4 million annually by reducing turnover to 15 percent, which would cut down on overtime pay.
High turnover rates also have caused travel expenses within the department to skyrocket, auditors found.
Taxpayers spent $6.1 million in travel expenses for DHHR personnel in 2012. That's a 35 percent increase since 2010, when the agency spent $4.5 million.