January 19, 2017

Auditor General DePasquale Launches Audit Of Disputed Jobless Benefits Fund

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale Thursday launched a performance audit of the Department of Labor & Industry’s Unemployment Compensation Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund that is at the root of a dispute between Gov. Wolf and legislative leaders.
The Fund pays for employees in the state’s unemployment compensation call centers. Gov. Wolf said in December he had to close two of the centers and layoff 521 workers because the General Assembly did not appropriate additional monies for the Fund before they adjourned in November.
Republican leaders in the Senate said they are still waiting for information they requested from the Wolf Administration justifying the increase.  The Wolf Administration said they have provided all the information requested.
Meanwhile people seeking jobless benefits are encountering significant increases in the wait times stretching for hours from the call centers that remain open.
“I have directed my team to immediately begin an audit to evaluate L&I’s duties and responsibilities related to fulfilling the intent of Act 34 of 2013,” DePasquale said. “I am hopeful that this audit can shed some light on what happened to the funding already provided and help legislators and the governor find the most beneficial path forward that ensures people receive the services they need in the most efficient and effective manner possible.”
Auditors will start by:
-- Reviewing L&I’s accounting of expenditures made from the Unemployment Compensation Service and Infrastructure Improvement Fund each year,
-- Validating improvements and efficiencies for the unemployment compensation system, including any cost savings, achieved by L&I using SIIF money,
-- Evaluating the reasonableness of L&I’s economic forecast of the potential impact to the UC system in the future, and
-- Reviewing L&I’s economic forecast/projection on how and when the department can eliminate the need for additional SIIF funding; and ensure the implementation of new technologies for the UC system.
The audit period begins with January 2013 through completion, which is anticipated this spring.
Senators Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) and Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland), past and current Majority Chairs of the Senate Labor and Industry Committee, issued the following statement in reaction to the audit announcement:
“The decision by the auditor general to move forward with an audit of the unemployment compensation centers is a very positive and essential step toward responsibly resolving this dispute.  His track record indicates that he will undertake a thorough review, put forth factual findings, and provide useful recommendations for efficiently providing these vital services at a more controllable cost.
“At a time when taxpayers are demanding greater accountability, we need this hard-eyed look at the financial and operational aspects of the centers, to assure both efficiency and cost-effectiveness are realized.
“Important questions are being asked about how funds were spent.  It appears a lot of money intended to upgrade the system was instead underwriting basic operations.  Now, with the closures and layoffs instituted by the administration, Pennsylvania is left with a system that by all accounts is unequipped to serve the jobless, who are owed timely assistance.
“Our hope is that the audit will yield a blueprint for a better result.”
Jobless Fund Used To Fund Call Centers To Be Audited By DePasquale