Of the 25 bills we reviewed that were submitted by vendors, reviewed by the Committee for Public Counsel Services’ (CPCS’s) Audit and Oversight (A&O) Department, and paid by CPCS, one bill, for $7,205, was submitted 885 days after the date of service and was paid even though there was no documentation of extraordinary circumstances that prevented the vendor from submitting the bill on time. There was also no documentation that this late bill had received the required approval from CPCS’s chief counsel; rather, it was reviewed and approved for payment by the chief auditor of A&O. By not ensuring that all vendor bills are properly processed in accordance with CPCS policies and procedures, the agency risks paying an incorrect amount for services.
Section 12(b) of Chapter 211D of the Massachusetts General Laws addresses the exception to the policies regarding late bills, which spur reduction and suspension of payments:
For all bills not submitted to the committee within 90 days after the last date of service or, if the case is pending at the end of the fiscal year, within 60 days after the end of the fiscal year, those bills so submitted after such date shall not be processed for payment; provided, however, that the chief counsel may authorize the payment of such bills either in whole or in part upon a determination that the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the vendor.
Reasons for Noncompliance
According to CPCS’s director of A&O, this particular vendor was involved in an “extraordinary circumstance.” However, the vendor had not performed services for CPCS previously, did not follow established procedures, and sent the invoice to the private attorney instead of processing it through the V-Bill system. The private attorney kept the vendor invoice for an extended period before sending it to CPCS, without explanation. CPCS officials could not explain why the payment was processed without the required formal approval of the chief counsel.
- CPCS should inform all vendors, at the time services are performed, of the proper procedures for processing V-Bills.
- CPCS should not allow a vendor to be paid for services if s/he does not provide required supporting documentation.
The $7,205 bill was paid in accordance with c. 211D s. 12B and all CPCS billing policies. First, the Chief Counsel examined the reasons for the extraordinary delay in receipt of the bill and found sufficient justification existed to meet the statutory threshold as provided by s. 12B of c. 211D. Among other things, the vendor billed the attorney directly, delays thereafter were beyond the vendor’s control and the vendor could not have submitted a bill to CPCS until they were established with the Comptroller and CPCS which did not occur until December, 2015. This action by the Chief Counsel made the bill eligible for payment in the usual course. . . . Because the bill was over $5,000 it was sent from the accounts payable department to A&O where it was reviewed and approved for payment by the Chief Auditor of CPCS in compliance with CPCS billing policy.
Although CPCS asserts that its chief counsel examined the bill in question and approved its payment, there is inadequate documentation to substantiate this. It should be noted that in addition to its written comments, CPCS gave us other documentation after the end of our audit fieldwork to support its assertion. This documentation included a copy of an email regarding the bill with an “Approved” stamp and an internal electronic spreadsheet that, according to CPCS, indicated that the chief counsel had approved the expense in question. However, the “Approved” stamp did not indicate who actually stamped the document and did not include a date; additionally, it did not contain the chief counsel’s initials or signature indicating that he had actually reviewed the bill and approved its payment. Further, although the electronic spreadsheet appears to track bill approvals by the chief counsel, there was no documentation to indicate who generated and maintained the spreadsheet.
In its response, CPCS cites extraordinary circumstances surrounding the processing of this bill; however, as stated above, there was no documentation of these circumstances on file at CPCS during the audit.
Finally, although the chief auditor of CPCS approved the payment of this bill, under the circumstances the chief counsel was required to authorize its payment, and there is inadequate documentation that this process was followed, as noted above.
|Date published:||February 28, 2018|