BBJ Editorial: Contractor flap would be a serious matter in private sector
January 17, 2014 - The following content was originally published by the Boston Business Journal.
Credit state auditor Suzanne Bump with thorough work and also providing the business community with a rich irony by uncovering various violations at the state Department of Transportation in its use of contract employees. The irony here is the state has created a set of onerous and punitive independent contractor rules that one of its own agencies routinely flouted. It’s the classic “do as we say, not as we do” scenario.
The state auditors uncovered some bizarre contractor situations at the DOT, including IT consultants serving as supervisors for state employees. One IT contractor had an 11-year tenure at the DOT.
Boston Business Journal: MassDOT IT Consultant Audit
January 9, 2014 - The following content was originally published by the Boston Business Journal.
State Auditor Suzanne Bum's office today released a tough report on the use of consultants by the state Department of Transportation for information technology work.
The audit states the DOT resorted to inappropriate hiring and employment practices to bring consultants on board, in some cases circumventing state laws in the process. The report said DOT spent $22 million on consultants in recent years — and in one case retained a consultant for 11 years. The audit asserts some of the work done by consultants should have been performed by state employees.
"These findings suggest that MassDOT has been circumventing the administration’s imposed salary and staff number limits by misusing consultants,” Bump said in a prepared statement accompanying the release of the audit. “The agency needs to find a lawful way to staff its IT functions.”
Boston Globe: Audit details Worcester agency’s troubles
January 3, 2014 - The following content was originally published by the Boston Globe.
A defunct Worcester social service agency charged more than $143,000 in questionable expenses to the state before it closed, according to a recent report from the state auditor’s office.
The troubled nonprofit, the Henry Lee Willis Community Center Inc., also accumulated about $1 million in debt to the state and other creditors, including $235,569 to the state’s unemployment insurance fund, by the time it shut down.
The community center, which provided a variety of social service programs in Central Massachusetts and relied primarily on state funding, was finally forced to close its doors last Feb. 15 after four state agencies pulled their contracts because of concerns about the center’s management and continued financial woes.
The financial problems appeared to have been years in the making. The Dec. 19 audit found that the Department of Children and Families flagged the nonprofit’s financial problems as early as 2009. The agency’s own auditor repeatedly noted that the nonprofit had problems with its credit card documentation in fiscal years 2009 through 2012.
01/03/14 - Worcester Telegram & Gazette
01/03/14 - Worcester Magazine
01/05/14 - Worcester Telegram & Gazette editorial
01/08/14 - Worcester Telegram & Gazette column
01/08/14 - GoLocal Worcester
Bay State Banner: Tax credits require the transparency of a formal audit
December 31, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Bay State Banner.
Corporate tax credits and concessions reduce the state revenue available to finance the public’s business. State Auditor Suzanne Bump seeks the authority to assess these programs to determine whether such tax expenditures are truly beneficial...
...there should also be a way to evaluate whether the benefits to the community are greater than the cost of the tax expenditures. The Department of Revenue (DOR) can determine in a tax audit whether the deductions have been taken appropriately, but there is no regular assessment of the value of the tax incentives to the city or state.
The state auditor already has the authority to investigate to determine whether state programs attain their established goals. It makes no sense to reinvent the wheel and create another state agency to make an equivalent assessment of tax concessions.
Patriot Ledger: Quincy dentist engaged in pervasive MassHealth fraud
December 12, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Quincy Patriot Ledger
A new state audit accuses a Quincy dentist of collecting $154,019 in questionable claims from MassHealth.
A report issued Wednesday by State Auditor Suzanne Bump says Dr. Shahrzad Haghayegh-Askarian, who owns her own private dental practice and runs Hancock Dental in Wollaston, repeatedly claimed MassHealth funds for unallowable and sometimes medically excessive procedures from 2008 through 2011. Bump has referred her audit to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office for review.
Bump said Haghayegh “systematically bilked the MassHealth dental program.” She said MassHealth funding makes up 30 percent of the state budget, and abuse of the program is an affront to taxpayers.
“It’s an area that warrants ongoing review,” Bump said.
Read more from the Quincy Patriot Ledger.
12/12/13 - Boston Herald
Auditor Bump appoints three to state advisory council
December 4, 2013
Today State Auditor Suzanne Bump administered the oath of office for her three appointments to the Commonwealth’s Personal Care Attendant Quality Home Care Workforce Council (PCA Council).
Auditor Bump’s appointees include:
- Paul Spooner of Taunton
- Anne Johansen of Quincy
- Cindy Purcell of Rutland
The Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Program is a MassHealth program that helps people with long-term disabilities live independently at home. The PCA program gives each eligible MassHealth member funds to hire a personal care attendant to help with activities of daily living.
The PCA Council is a legislatively created governmental body which uses citizen engagement as an instrument for strengthening the PCA program. The Council consists of 9 members. Other appointments are made by the Governor and the Attorney General. Council members serve a three year term.
State Representatives Tackey Chan, Kimberly Ferguson, and Shaunna O’Connell were also in attendance.
Fall River Herald News Editorial: Auditing Mass. Business Tax Breaks
December 4, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Fall River Herald News.
The state auditor’s office plays a crucial function in ensuring that taxpayers’ dollars are spent wisely. As such, the elected office independently audits the programs administered by nearly every state agency. But the agency in charge of collecting tax dollars and administering a wide array of business-related tax breaks valued at $2 billion has very limited outside oversight.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump wants to change that. Bump and state Rep. Jay Kaufman, House chairman of the Joint Committee on Revenue, have each filed twin legislation that would allow her office to analyze the business tax returns of companies that receive any of the 91 tax breaks available to see that those companies are holding up their end of the bargain with the tax breaks’ intended purpose. Although the auditing practice is common in 36 of the 41 states that require businesses to file tax returns, the Massachusetts auditor is barred by statute from accessing those records...
...This legislation, which has 13 Democratic co-sponsors, deserves the support of both Democrats and Republicans and deserves a hearing as soon as possible. The Department of Revenue does not object to the legislation allowing the audits, and in fact, helped draft the bill.
Read the full editorial, or click here to learn more about the legislation.
Lowell Sun: Bump wants access to business tax returns to audit credits
November 19, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Lowell Sun.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump is requesting the power to access confidential corporate tax returns, records she said would allow her office to determine whether tax incentives given by the state are an efficient and effective use of government resources.
"We have to look at business tax returns to see if the Department of Revenue is actually auditing according to how they say they are," Bump said. "We wanted to be able to say, 'Is what you're doing good enough? Are you missing areas where there could be potential for fraud, or is this actually benefiting us? Is this actually benefiting the group of businesses or the people that you want to see employed? What is the impact of it?' "
During a meeting with The Sun's editorial board Monday, Bump said that of the 41 states that require the filing of tax returns, 36 specifically authorize the state auditor to review them.
She filed legislation requesting that authority earlier this year, more than two years after an audit of business-related tax credits and other expenditures found little oversight, accountability or transparency.
Bump said her office then set out to audit the administration of tax-incentive programs but could not do so without being able to analyze and confirm the data contained in businesses' tax returns.
While the state budget is scrutinized by "thousands of eyes" each year, many tax credits are "never looked at again," though tax policy and the budget have equal impact on government revenue, Bump said.
Read more from the Lowell Sun.
Cape Cod Times: Bump hits a speed bump
November 15, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Cape Cod Times.
Late last week, state Auditor Suzanne Bump met with our editorial board to promote legislation that would help her office review the effectiveness of corporate tax breaks.
Bump said her office is currently unable to audit the state's oversight of tax breaks because it is prohibited from accessing corporate tax returns. Without a change in the law, Bump is unable to determine if the more than $2 billion worth of tax breaks, which were granted for purposes ranging from job creation to promoting green technology, are working. Bump said 36 other states give their auditors the power to review tax returns.
Unfortunately, several business leaders oppose the bill, arguing that the auditor could possibly make public sensitive information contained in corporate tax returns. Bump recently told the Associated Press that the purpose of her review would be only to assess whether the tax breaks were good public policy, and not to target any individual companies.
The state Legislature should approve the bill.
Read more from the Cape Cod Times.
Berkshire Eagle Editorial: Zeroing in on tax breaks
November 5, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Berkshire Eagle.
Massachusetts wisely uses tax breaks to encourage business and industry to come here and thrive here, but the flip side is taxpayers require assurances that these breaks are merited and used properly. A good way to do this would be for the state auditor's office to review Department of Revenue documents to see if the department is enforcing them adequately. The auditor does not currently have this power, but the Legislature should pass the bill needed to provide it.
In a recent interview at The Eagle, auditor Suzanne Bump said that $2.2 billion in businesses expenditures are not subject to auditing, which means in her words "there is no measure of success." The state and its taxpayers don't know if the expenditures are reported in detail, if there is a sunset provision allowing them to lapse, or if there are clawback provisions enabling tax breaks to be withdrawn and money repaid if the recipient doesn't deliver on jobs or other economic benefits...
...If businesses want tax breaks then they are obligated to show the public that what they are doing in exchange for the tax breaks is of genuine public benefit. Businesses opposed to this concept don't have to apply for tax breaks. The legislation advocated by Ms. Bump is reasonable and overdue, and the Legislature should make it law in the months ahead.
COUNTING CHANGE: By tracking bullying, schools can prevent it
October 25, 2013 - The following content is from a opinion column authored by State Auditor Suzanne Bump which originally appeared in the Quincy Patriot Ledger.
Too often it takes something tragic to inspire a truly novel change in government.
The 1984 death of a 19- year-old college freshman forced to gorge alcohol in a fraternity initiation rite was the motivating incident behind a law outlawing all types of hazing at all Massachusetts colleges and high schools. More recently, the suicide of Phoebe Prince after years of brutal torment lent urgency to the passage of an anti-bullying law.
Both laws were landmark legislation filling a gross void in our system of public safety. They provide our schools, children and families with the tools they need to combat bullying and hazing. However, policy is only as good as it is effective. Our current anti-bullying law lacks the requirement that bullying data be reported so that you, as policymakers, can assess the law’s effectiveness. What good is it to have a law if you do not know if it works?
Springfield Republican: State audit faults Holyoke Geriatric Authority
September 25, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Springfield Republican.
The state auditor Wednesday detailed how mismanagement at the Holyoke Geriatric Authority that included alleged misuse of credit cards and failure to seize revenue opportunities led to a $2.2 million debt to city agencies.
The 34-page audit renewed calls from Mayor Alex B. Morse and others for a transition that could include privatizing the struggling nursing home at 45 Lower Westfield Road and possibly relocating patients.
Holyoke Mayor Morse talks to CBS3 Springfield about the audit.
The city and a revamped authority board of commissioners in May 2012 requested the audit, which the office of Suzanne M. Bump began in August 2012. Patricia C. Devine, a former city councilor, took over as authority board chairwoman in April 2012.
The audit covers the period of Jan. 1, 2010, to June 30, 2012.
"The series of deficiencies detailed in this report describe an environment ripe for waste and abuse," Bump said in a press release with the audit.
"Holyoke is at a crossroads of its financial future, and it must be determined if the Geriatric Authority can be transitioned to a state of self-sufficiency or if it should continue to be supported by the taxpayers," Bump said.
Berkshire Eagle: Sandisfield woman sentenced for larceny, false claims to Medicaid
September 23, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Berkshire Eagle.
A registered nurse from Sandisfield received a suspended jail sentence on Friday in connection with a scheme to bill the state's Medicaid program for more than $25,000 while at horse competitions.
Berkshire Superior Court Judge John A. Agostini handed Robin Annecharico, 49, an 18-month sentence in the Berkshire County House of Correction suspended for a probationary period of five years.
Annecharico was also ordered to pay $23,126 in restitution to MassHealth, according to the State Attorney General's office, which prosecuted the case with assistance from the state Auditor's office. MassHealth is the state's Medicaid program.
On Aug. 29, Annecharico pleaded guilty to six counts of larceny over $250, six counts of Medicaid false claims, two counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of making false statements under penalty of perjury, in Superior Court. She also fabricated treatment and medical records for her patients to obstruct the ongoing criminal investigation by the state Attorney General's Office and a Berkshire County grand jury.
Boston Herald: State cracking down on medical benefits fraud
September 18, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Boston Herald.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump said her office is “prioritizing” people who scam on medical benefits after her investigators detected nearly twice as much MassHealth fraud in fiscal year 2013 from the year before — including people who claimed to be giving in-home medical care to the dead.
As part of the record-setting $6.3 million in public-assistance fraud her office uncovered in fiscal year 2013, more than $3 million, or 48 percent, stemmed from MassHealth, according to a report released yesterday by Bump’s office. It’s nearly double the $1.6 million in MassHealth fraud investigators found the year before, and a jump from $2.7 million in 2011.
Patriot Ledger: Price tag for U.S Senate election is $7.2 million, state auditor says
September 13, 2013 - The following content was originally published by the Quincy Patriot Ledger.
Cities and towns are due $7.2 million to cover the costs of this year’s special elections to fill a U.S. Senate seat, state Auditor Suzanne Bump has reported.
Bump’s office contacted all 351 of the state’s municipalities to determine their costs for this year’s primary and general election.
The state Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick now must approve the funding.
“Conducting statewide elections are essential, but costly burdens on our local communities,” Bump said in a statement. “It is now time for the state to hold up its end of the deal.”
09/13/13 - The Greenfield Recorder