A cynic might say
that Kevin Concannon, Maine’s former commissioner
of the Department of Human Services, left for
greener pastures just in time. Concannon, who is
now the director of the Iowa Department of Human
Services, was the man in charge for most of the
time in which
Maine’s DHS managed to lose
track of $38.8 million in Medicaid funding prior
to June 30 of this year.
That’s the amount
Maine must replace, according to
PricewaterhouseCoopers, a nationally known
auditing firm hired to examine the department’s
accounting practices when its fiscal problems came
department’s shortfall is much larger than that.
The Portland Press Herald reported last week that,
according to some officials in Governor John
Baldacci’s administration, the DHS may be as much
as $150 million in the red.
Much of the
responsibility for the problem is being placed on
Rudolph Naples, a deputy commissioner in charge of
the DHS management and budget office. Naples will
retire Nov. 14 and Baldacci has named John
Nicholas, who retired last year as head of the
Bureau of the Budget, as his replacement.
According to the
PricewaterhouseCoopers report, the $38.8-million
Medicaid shortfall can be attributed to inadequate
accounting processes and insufficient resources.
The auditors cited a long list of mistakes
including taking money from the wrong funds;
failing to file Medicaid claims on time; wrongly
using federal, rather than state, funds to pay
certain bills; and spending funds that existed
only on paper rather than as cash in hand.
officials now believe that, as a result of
faster-than-expected growth in Medicaid spending,
the state will have to plug an additional $112
million hole in the current fiscal year budget,
which began July 1. The Governor will submit a
proposal for addressing that shortfall to the
Legislature’s Appropriations Committee on Nov. 19.
The next legislative session will begin in
Clearly, it is
convenient to blame Naples for the fiscal problems
of the DHS and somebody has to take the fall.
According to the Portland Press Herald, the
Governor’s spokesman, Lee Umphrey, acknowledged
that Naples’ impending retirement is not entirely
But as the late
President Harry Truman said so succinctly, “The
buck stops here.” And while Naples must share in
the blame for the department’s sloppy bookkeeping,
the ultimate responsibility lies with the
commissioner, not his deputy.
Did Concannon see
the writing on the wall? We’ll probably never
know. He bailed out in March, and since then, the
DHS has been without a commissioner. Baldacci says
he hopes to nominate a new commissioner in
January. The Governor also is hoping to convince
the Legislature to merge the DHS and the
Department of Behavioral and Developmental
Such a merger
would beg the question whether, in this case,
bigger is better. According to the
PricewaterhouseCoopers report, “The accounting
processes in place at DHS are inadequate to handle
the volume and complexity of the programs being
administered, and DHS has insufficient resources
to adequately manage fiscal operations.”
Does it make sense
to further enlarge an already unwieldy bureaucracy
without first being very sure that both the
necessary expertise and resources have been found
to correct existing problems? A $150-million
shortfall is a serious matter. The
Legislature—starting this month with the
Appropriations Committee—must ask some tough
questions and demand some straight answers.