Address Fiscal Oversight Problems in Nebraska’s Child Welfare System

LB 949 would create a separate budget program for appropriations of funds for child welfare in Nebraska. LB 949 would also require regular financial reporting by the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services to the Legislature’s HHS and Appropriations Committees. We also strongly support that LB 949 would require that the Department’s appropriations request process include a strategic plan that identifies benchmarks and goals and that this information is tracked on an ongoing basis.

[DDET LB 949 Testimony]

Senator Kathy Campbell

Chair, Health and Human Services Committee
Room 1402, State Capitol
Lincoln, NE 68509

Chairwoman Campbell and members of the Health and Human Services Committee,

On behalf of the Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public Interest, I am here to testify in support of LB 949.

We support LB 949 because we believe ongoing problems with fiscal oversight are critical and must be addressed.  The Committee likely does not need to be reminded of key findings of the State Auditor’s Report, which found, among other things, that the Department of Health and Human Services overpaid one contractor by millions of dollars, provided no documentation to support the basis for various contract amendments totaling (at the time of the report) over $25 million, and expended thousands of dollars on duplicate claims and payments to the wrong contractor.  The Committee also likely does not need to be reminded of the Legislative Fiscal Office’s report delineating shifts in expenditures between subprograms in Program 347 and, specifically, noting the transfer by the Department of re-appropriated funds and under-expenditures from other vital subprograms in Program 347 to private child welfare agencies.  This occurred outside of the appropriations process and without oversight of the Legislature.

LB 949 would prevent this situation from occurring in the future by creating a separate budget program for appropriations of funds for child welfare.  LB 949 could also prevent a recurrence of the problems identified in the audit by requiring regular financial reporting by the Department to the HHS and Appropriations Committees of the Legislature.  We also strongly support that LB 949 would require that the Department’s appropriations request process include a strategic plan that identifies benchmarks and goals and that this information is tracked on an ongoing basis.

The financial impact of the privatization over the course of the past two years has been unacceptable at best and devastating at worst.  Vital taxpayer dollars intended for our state’s most vulnerable children have been misdirected as a result of the Department’s poor fiscal management.  LB 949 would increase needed legislative oversight of this process.  Therefore, we respectfully request that you vote to advance LB 949 out of committee.

Sincerely,

 

Sarah Helvey
Staff Attorney/Director
Child Welfare System Accountability Program[/DDET]

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