A state audit released today found that the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services paid contractor Samaritan Village Inc. nearly $1 million in inappropriate and questionable expenses in a one-year period, including more than $400,000 for clients to spend on day trips and transportation. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recommended the state agency improve its monitoring and oversight.
Samaritan Village provides residential, outpatient and methadone treatment services in the New York City area. Between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, the organization reported charges to the state of $11.3 million. Under a five-year, $73.3 million contract, the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services reimburses Samaritan Village for the net costs of providing the services, up to $73.3 million.
“Nearly $1 million in inappropriate and questionable costs were charged to taxpayers because the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services didn’t effectively monitor this contractor’s expenses,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “OASAS needs to improve its oversight of how contractors are using public money so taxpayers aren’t getting the short end of the stick.”
The contractor charged the state $973,881 for unallowable, inappropriate, questionable or undocumented expenses, including:
— Giving 203 employees a $1,082.84 bonus check, totaling about $220,000. State officials said the one-time performance awards could serve as a motivator for good performance and strategy for retaining staff. Salaries in the substance abuse treatment field are low. But the bonuses were not based on individual merit; rather they were given as a result of unspent budgeted funds.
— Giving $406,096 to clients to spend on day trips and transportation. Since most Samaritan Village clients already receive a personal needs allowance, the expenses may be duplicative and unnecessary.
— Charging $63,519 for legal services not related to the OASAS program; $57,000 for construction costs related to damage caused by one of Samaritan’s contractors; $55,000 for contractual services with no identifiable benefit; and $35,158 for unapproved high-end office equipment purchases.
DiNapoli’s auditors found other areas that need improvements, such as Samaritan Village is not ensuring what it pays for services is reasonable. It claimed $337,458 for consultant services that weren’t bid or approved in advance by the state, as required by regulations. Samaritan charged $316,842 in other-than-personal-services expenses to the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services that should have been spread among OASAS and other programs.
State officials said they made several improvements to their fiscal oversight as a result of the audit, including adopting a risk-based system to better target audit resources and introducing more focused fiscal reviews by field office representatives.