Friday, February 15, 2013

Chaos at North Carolina's DHHS

It’s pure chaos at North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Resources.  This agency has the second largest bureaucracy in the state with an $18 billion budget.  Medicaid is the biggest expenditure.  This program is currently $21 million in the red as of now.  Newly, appointed Secretary Aldona Wos is tackling this bureaucratic beast head on.

To illustrate the disarray she found in DHHS when she took over last month, Wos recited a list of anecdotes involving frenzied staff members rushing in and out of her office, dropping off an array of documents.

“The papers had no names, no contact information, and [staffers were] asking me for signatures for something that needed to be done urgently,” Wos said.

One distressed employee pleaded for her to sign quickly a contract that required her signature. When asked what the document was, the official “was unable to provide the information to me, but she said she thought it was a couple of million dollars contract,” Wos said.

In her first week, members of her budget team presented a variety of money woes, Wos said. One was a demand for more than $4 million because of an error in communication. Another was for a $5 million program reduction required by law but not enacted for two years. A third involved nearly $40 million in unpaid bills.

Just last week legislative reports that were due in November, December, and January “showed up on my desk,” Wos said. “Not only were these reports months late, they were simply incomprehensible.”

As a result, she issued a directive to staff “that all signatures required by me must be on my desk at least a week before, that they must come with a simple, one-page cover sheet that includes the person who is responsible for this, perhaps a grant name,” the name of the supervisor involved, whether state or federal money is involved, and containing a summary and bullet points.

Staffers now are made accountable for completing specific tasks rather than assigning them to a “point of contact,” Wos said, and an expectation has been established that deadlines will be adhered to.
Good luck Madame Secretary.

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