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County considering a comprehensive audit of DSS

By Staff
Would focus on areas with greatest workload
Staff Writer
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners is considering an audit of the county’s Department of Social Services, focusing on four areas that County Manager Paul Spruill said would give commissioners the “most bang for their buck.”
Based on a preliminary study conducted by Spruill, County Finance Officer Jim Chrisman and DSS Director Jim Harriett, the audit will focus on four departments in which the bulk of the agency’s workload originates. They are those departments that determine the eligibility of clients for family and children’s Medicaid, adult Medicaid, food stamps and Work First.
Spruill invited Steve Allan, a Charlotte-based consultant with 32 years experience in local government, to meet with commissioners Thursday for a special lunch meeting. It isn’t certain whether Allan will take the case because, Allan said, an audit of an entire department of social services as a whole is something that he’s never done.
Spruill said Harriett makes a budget request for more staff or more money almost every year. Instead of “doing the dance again,” Spruill said, it may benefit the county to know why the four areas seem to be perpetually underfunded, understaffed or both.
Because subsidies to DSS clients are so heavily regulated by state and federal funding agencies, Spruill said, the county would have to be very careful in implementing changes because “the consequences of inaccuracy are very dramatic.”
DSS has 111 employees in 14 departments with a net local-dollar cost of about $2 million. The four areas Spruill identified as possible inefficiencies account for $760,000 of that amount. Counting administrative-support costs for those four departments, over half the DSS budget is spent on the four areas.
Commissioner Ed Booth asked Allan if in his audit he would consider merging some of the supervisory positions within the agency.
Allan said that was one possibility to streamline DSS, but the actual audit would take into account everything from the work environment to the individual employees.
Allan is expected to decide within two weeks whether he will help the county, based on Spruill’s preliminary analysis and some of his own. After that time, he will submit to commissioners a formal audit proposal, including fees.