The Journal Gazette
Thursday, November 14, 2019 1:00 am

DCS works extra to play catch-up

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Department of Child Services' employees worked overtime during two recent state holidays in an attempt to catch up with payment delays for vendors providing services to abused and neglected children.

In late October the agency sent word to vendors about the issues and has seen some improvement since then.

But there is still work to be done.

“It's just a big learning curve,” said Noelle Russell, deputy communications director for DCS.

“I don't think anyone anticipated how big. But we are working with the auditor's office. We are all focused on doing better,” she added.

Chris Fletcher, deputy chief financial officer for DCS, said a 2018 audit by the State Board of Accounts raised concerns about backup documentation by providers, or lack thereof. That led the agency to move to a new system with a single point of entry for all services provided on or after Sept. 1.

That means vendors are having to submit more than they used to and in a different format.

On top of that, the state auditor's office also had some internal system changes. All of that has meant some vendors are waiting weeks or months to be paid.

“We know timely payments are very important to all state vendors, particularly those who service families and children,” said Jared Bond, spokesman for the auditor's office. “We are taking every effort to minimize delays. We have added resources to our team which has allowed (the auditor's office) to process claims more quickly. We continue to work with DCS to find additional ways to streamline processing and enhance payment times while ensuring accuracy in billing.”

The child services agency processes hundreds of invoices a day. They recently worked Veterans Day and Election Day and are also working some weekends to process the vendors' claims.

As of Wednesday, 14,623 vouchers for payment were in the DCS system. Of those, about 1,600 were older than 35 days.

The Indiana Association of Resources and Child Advocacy reported that more than 3,000 employees have been impacted by the delays. Some contractors have been forced to tap into their savings or open lines of credit to get through.

Several northeast Indiana vendors did not return calls seeking comment.

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