Los Angeles Agency Ignores Internal Controls Over Transit Benefits

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services has failed to implement eight recommendations made by the county auditor to improve internal controls over transit benefits provided to low-income residents.

The department is responsible for distributing bus passes and tokens to those who qualify. But County Auditor-Controller John Naimo reported January 3 that department employees ignore safeguards intended to ensure recipients are eligible, often issue more expensive passes than necessary, and don’t take proper steps to avoid theft of passes and tokens.

The auditor interviewed social workers at three regional offices, and found that “most … did not maintain adequate security over passes and tokens.” The auditor reported that “items were stored in vehicles, unlocked drawers, and on top of desks.”

The auditor’s additional findings:

  • “All three of the offices we visited have not developed monitoring processes to prevent or detect duplicate issuance of transit passes and tokens.”

  • The social workers have three transit pass options: EZ Pass ($110), a 30-day regular pass ($100) or a 30-day student pass ($24). “We noted that many regional offices exclusively order EZ passes. We also visited three regional offices, and noted that the staff either were not aware that they could select less expensive options … or selected EZ passes out of convenience. In addition, we reviewed transit passes provided to child clients, and noted that many were given a 30-Day Regular Pass or transit tokens. They appeared to be eligible for the more cost-effective 30-Day Student Pass.”

  • Many of the monthly EZ Pass issuances were distributed near the middle or end of the month, when it would have been more cost-effective to issue transit tokens ($17.50 per week) rather than the $110 EZ Pass. “The transit tokens do not expire and the EZ passes could have been returned to [the Metropolitan Transportation Authority] for full credit,” the auditor noted.

  • “All three regional offices we visited did not appropriately separate incompatible duties to different staff. For example, staff at one regional office receives and distributes passes and tokens, maintains recordkeeping logs, and prepares monthly reconciliations.”

  • “We noted that many forms had missing required eligibility documents … or eligibility documents did not match clients listed on forms. We also noted that forms were incomplete (e.g., missing names) and included eligibility documents that did not specify that transportation assistance was needed for the clients in question.”

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