Friday, August 18, 2017

Medicaid: Clarion-Ledger got it wrong. UPDATE: DFA fires back

The Mississippi Division of Medicaid issued the following statement.

Mississippi Division of Medicaid transparent with information

The Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) routinely submits detailed travel information to the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) for processing and makes every effort to fulfill Gov. Phil Bryant’s commitment to transparency in government spending.

Transparency Mississippi does not accurately reflect the amount of travel documentation DOM submits to DFA. Neither Executive Director David Dzielak nor any other DOM employee has access to enter information directly into Transparency Mississippi.

Rather, information is uploaded from SPAHRS, the State-Wide Payroll and Human Resource System, and DOM staff is unaware of how information entered into SPAHRS flows to the Transparency Mississippi website.
The internal DOM process is as follows. Any DOM employee going on work-related travel must obtain multiple levels of approval, including all supervisory levels and executive leadership. A DFA Travel Authorization form is completed and signed by those leaders, in addition to a DOM Registration Authorization form. Those forms must be approved by the Accounting department and filed with the travel coordinator. Once the trip is complete, the employee fills out a detailed Travel Voucher form with required documentation, which is then submitted for appropriate reimbursement.

The travel coordinator enters information into SPAHRS. Then, the accounting director gives final DOM-agency approval in SPAHRS. At that point, twice a week, all of that information is submitted to DFA for their review and approval of each travel request individually before the employee is reimbursed.

DOM has continually provided detailed travel information and submitted it to the best of our ability in lieu of having written instructions and direction from DFA. Going forward, DOM will work with DFA to improve the process and ensure the information provided is available through Transparency Mississippi.

Kingfish note: This press release was issued in response to a Geoff Pender column that was published in the Clarion-Ledger last Sunday.  Mr. Pender wrote:

I attempted (unsuccessfully) to help a colleague find something on And, because I’m weird and have in the past spent many, many hours going through such records, I clicked on the “travel” button. This is supposed to let you easily see itemized state government travel spending by agency, by employee and by location.

Some of you might recall I’ve written a wee bit over the years about state government employee travel — from Alaska to the Virgin Islands; from Bermuda to Vail, Colorado; and of course, Destin, Florida. Mississippi government apparently cannot operate without hundreds of government-funded trips to conferences, seminars and meetings in Destin. The state could probably save a lot of money by just buying a large condo there and letting state agencies time-share it.

But I digress.

The travel page on the Mildly Translucent Mississippi site has columns and rows that are supposed show the public the dates of a government employee’s trip, the destination, the title of the meeting or seminar, the purpose, the type of expense for which they’re being reimbursed and the amount. Sounds simple, right?

Sometimes the public can glean details of a trip, sometimes they can’t. It basically depends on what the government official or agency feels like sharing with the Department of Finance and Administration, which runs the Mildly Translucent site.

But then there’s state Medicaid Director Dr. David Dzielak, who was reimbursed for nearly $11,000 in travel and his entire agency, which was reimbursed $519,000 in travel for fiscal 2017. Apparently, they don’t feel like telling the public squat about their travel. So they don’t.

When Dzielak travels out of state, and he does so frequently, he lists the destination as “out of state travel.” He lists the title of the meeting or seminar as “office of executive services (EX97)” whatever the heck that means. He lists the meeting purpose for all his trips as “Any out of state meetings and/or activities pertaining to the office of executive services.”....

For instance, taxpayers can tell they paid for Dzielak to go somewhere out of state July of last year for some sort of meeting and/or activities and he spent $1,259.15 on lodging, $582.60 on a “public carrier” (I’m betting it was an airplane), and $186.91 on “other” expenses.

Why, thank you for sharing, Dr. Dzielak. I hope you went somewhere nice and had fun at any out-of-state meetings and/or activities you might have attended pertaining to the office of executive services.

Most in Dzielak’s agency appear to follow his lead on their expense reports, at least according to the Mildly Translucent site. For instance, Medicaid spokeswoman Erin Barham traveled out of state a few times last year. She went to “out of state” to the “office of public relations (info)” meetings three times. The purpose of the meetings was “any out of state meetings and/or activities pertaining to the office of public relations.” She also traveled in state some. She went to “Instate travel” a few times for “any instate meetings and/or activities pertaining to the office of public relations.” Her total travel reimbursement for the year was $4,995.

It should be noted that a few employees in Medicaid appeared to slip up and indicate where they traveled, such as to Yazoo City or Pascagoula, but most keep it close to the vest.

UPDATE: DFA issued this press release:

— In response to the Mississippi Division of Medicaid’s recent press release dated August 18, 2017, titled Clarification: Mississippi Division of Medicaid Transparent with Information, the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) offers the following response.

While DFA is the host of Transparency Mississippi, the information in Transparency is dependent entirely upon the level of detail entered by each individual agency. In the instances in question, Division of Medicaid’s (DOM) out-of-state travel was posted to the system using a generic code not suited for out-of-state travel that did not provide detailed information about the purpose and destination of each trip.

The Division of Medicaid is correct in stating that neither Dr. David Dzielak, DOM Executive Director, nor any other DOM employee has access to enter information directly into Transparency Mississippi, however there are processes to be followed in the Statewide Payroll And Human Resource System (SPAHRS) in order to accurately reflect the travel details. DFA provides quarterly training and a call center to answer any travel-related questions.
DFA has communicated with DOM the recommended method to ensure all pertinent details are fully displayed in Transparency. Given the recent discussion about Transparency and travel, DFA will distribute these same recommendations to all agency heads.


Anonymous said...

That paper is a joke and Sam Hall is a clown.

Anonymous said...

Who is paying these jokes at the Clarion ledger?

Anonymous said...

Now now Kingfish, we all know you wish you had Donna's ad revenue, much less the Ledger's. You know how the press works better than anyone these days. The only Folks who don't update their stories and make corrections is FOX!

Anonymous said...

Anybody establishing an over/under betting line on how long it will be before we read a reply and apology to DOM Director and staff in the CL from former Demicrat Party Executive Director Sam Hall?

Whatever it is, I will take the over since I imagine we will be hearing crickets. Nothing but crickets.

Anonymous said...

All of these articles lately in the CL about Medicaid have been hand authored by MHA staff. The CL just goes along with it because it sounds like a controversy and nobody at the CL could begin to understand the managed care issue without being spoon fed by the MHA. Read the campaign finance reports of these elected officials that are crying foul. Bought and paid for.

Anonymous said...

The real joke is the Division of Medicaid. I could write a book about the incompetence in that agency. The number of seasoned employees at a supervisory level who don't know shit from shinola about their own regulations is staggering. Their ineptitude, lack of common courtesy, blatant disregard for rules and the rights of others and their dereliction of duty are abominations to the creed of public service.

Notwithstanding who at the Ledger did something wrong or right, I suspect the Traveling Director is too busy to get involved in such minutia as competent public service.

Anonymous said...

11:08 - Who is MHA?

Anonymous said...

I can't help but notice that the press release did not state what the accurate dollar cost of travel is.

Anonymous said...

I'm not 11:08 but it's MS Hospital Association, which has a severe case of red ass because Medicaid didn't choose MHA as a vendor to process payments to....hospitals.

Anonymous said...

Folks, the citizens of Mississippi have ZERO idea about how deep the corruption and malfeasance is across this state. Their tax money (as well as billions in Federal tax dollars) is being used in EVERY agency as a slush fund for the inner circle...."government" is the largest employer in Mississippi.....and you had better be willing to carry some dirty water and play ball (keep your mouth shut) or you will be destroyed for illuminating foul stench of the truth.....taxpayers are being financially raped every day. Why isn't anyone marching on Jackson to demand answers to why so many millions of dollars were stolen/given away/lost in the last few years? Because it mean inquiring too closely in to every branch of government and holding people accountable, and cutting off the gravy train. Which by and large, pours into the Church of Oxford.....and either you're a disciple, or you're an unsaved outsider. The University of Mississippi is the plantation that pimps this state for every dime it can, and our Senators, Judges, Legislators, and all the silent leaders (Governor included) are in on the scam. A federal forensic audit from bow to stern might just be the cure. Kudos to Mr. Pender for attempting to scratch off some of the manure to see what is actually happening, because NO ONE is holding state managers in every agency accountable....especially if they have Old Miss alum after their name. By the way, Hugh Freeze is a mess....but why isn't ANYONE demanding to know what the university officials knew?

Anonymous said...

If I were replying to an allegation that travel expenses aren't transparent, I'd have released more detailed travel records. They didn't. And they won't. And, holy crap, in total amount of travel expenditure, how is that justified? What a complete boondoggle --- with our money.

Anonymous said...

Out of state travel for most state employees is unnecessary. With the advent of video conferencing and webinars, most information obtained at conferences and seminars can be learned from their desks. Unless you are a presenter or panelist and have your expenses comped by the hosts, then please stay at home.

Anonymous said...

Cancel all travel and fire half the won't make a dent in the Medicaid deficit. This is all a big smokescreen because the legislature and governor have no idea how to fix this.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

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Trollfest '07

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There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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