FILE - Louisiana State Capitol

The Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Ken Lund | Flickr via Creative Commons)

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor identified $642 million in potential waste and inefficiency at state and local government entities during 2019, according to the agency’s annual report.

“Three major themes emerged again from the findings in the highlighted reports: the need for strong internal financial controls; the importance of data collection, tracking, and analysis; and the failure to address the same audit findings year after year,” the LLA says in its summary.

For example, some audits show the Louisiana Department of Health’s “ongoing struggle” to ensure Medicaid only pays for services that actually have been delivered to eligible recipients. LDH has disputed some of those assessments.

At state universities, students sometimes are overcharged or undercharged, delinquent accounts are not collected, and employees keep their computer privileges after leaving the institution.

One of the LLA’s major themes throughout the past year has been the financial struggles of local governments. Sloppy accounting, failing to comply with state budget laws, misappropriating tax dollars and undercharging for services all are common problems, according to the agency’s reports.

Several Louisiana towns on the verge of financial collapse have essentially been taken over by state-appointed fiscal administrators. Last fall, the auditor’s office unveiled a list of “fiscally distressed municipalities” in hopes of providing an early warning of financial danger.

“The goal of summarizing these issues is to encourage corrective actions, such as improved procedures or legislative actions that will resolve or reduce the impact of these concerns and increase accountability and transparency in Louisiana government,” the LLA says.

In 2019, the LLA released 157 staff reports covering a variety of topics and state agencies and oversaw the work of more than 200 independent contract audit firms that conducted almost 4,000 audits and other types of engagements of state and local government, the report says.

The LLA is required by law to report all audit findings that exceed $150,000 to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget quarterly and annually. The more than $642 million identified for calendar year 2019 is not necessarily recoverable, available to be spent, or required to be paid back.

Staff Reporter

David Jacobs is a Baton Rouge-based award-winning journalist who has written about government, politics, business and culture in Louisiana for almost 15 years. He joined The Center Square in 2018.