The report details three main reasons for travel in the department: visits to client homes and other facilities, travel to meetings and travel for training events and other professional development.
More than a third of the department's travel spending, $2.3 million, was training-related.
The Bureau for Children and Family spent the most in travel expenses, $3.2 million. Auditors noted this was expected, considering the amount of home visits and similar services the bureau performs.
The reports notes other departments' travel spending was too high.
The DHHR secretary's office, which includes the Inspector General, saw a 239-percent increase in travel spending from 2010 to 2012. In 2010, the office spent $229,000 on travel. Two years later, it spent $777,000.
Most of that increase was related to investigation activities by the Inspector General, the report noted.
Auditors recommended DHHR should work with each bureau's commissioner to review travel spending. Decreasing employee turnover rates also would have a positive effect on travel expenses, the report said, because there would be fewer new employees to send for training.
The report estimates DHHR could save $1.5 million a year by controlling travel expenses.
Hampered by its size
In the report, state leaders and health officials told auditors the DHHR's size, structure and budget are "unwieldy." Some health agencies are overburdened and overworked, while others are underutilized.
Auditors found DHHR is "largely focused on day-to-day operations and emergencies," with "little capacity" to work on new and broader efforts to improve health in the state.
Public Works estimates the state could receive an additional $10 million each year in federal funding by revamping its grant application and management processes.
According to the report, DHHR currently has no coordinated way to seek grant funding. Bureau staff. Instead, the agency relies on staff members to notify their superiors of grant opportunities before moving forward with the application process.
Auditors described the agency's approval system for grants as "cumbersome and lengthy " which "adds inordinately to the time needed to complete a grant application" and makes no difference in large or small grants.
"A grant for a few thousand dollars receives the same scrutiny as one that involves millions of dollars," the report reads.
No recommendations yet
Mason said she does not expect the Department of Health and Human Resources would write a formal response to Public Works' report, as the Department of Education did following last year's education audit.
She expects DHHR will issue some kind of response to the report, however, and would eventually meet with the Governor's Office to discuss ways to increase efficiency within the department.
The governor's office plans to wait for the department to review the study before making its own recommendations on the report, however.
"A the end of the day, some things may appear most feasible to you and me, but DHHR may need to issue a response to understand what can or can't be done," she said.
"The number one goal is to make sure that we're providing conscientious oversight for management in West Virginia. But we also want to make sure we have a health care delivery system that serves West Virginians well."