BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana’s labor department is still plagued by a computer system put online in 2015 to manage the state’s unemployment program just before Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration left office, according to an audit released Monday.
The report from Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office follows an earlier review that raised concerns about the Louisiana Workforce Commission system’s upgrade, which had been overseen by Jindal’s mother and was rolled out despite incomplete functionality tests.
Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has said it’s working to improve the system’s functioning, but auditors still found problems more than a year after the agency said it began trying to correct the flaws.
Issues with improper benefit payments have been fixed, the report says, but the computer system still falls short of meeting federal standards. Auditors say the system continues to lack reliable financial reports and strong security controls and fails to clean up some overpayment errors.
The system — called Helping Individuals Reach Employment, or HiRE — was “unable to produce a reliable report of overpayments that occurred during the fiscal year because of continued issues relating to its implementation from the previous year,” the audit says.
The Workforce Commission also lacks proper procedures for handling changes made to the computer system, auditors wrote, raising concerns about the possibility of “increased risk of errors, overpayments, financial misstatements, fraud or unauthorized disclosure of data.”
Because of continuing problems, auditors couldn’t confirm that the agency’s numbers were correct for the closing of the state’s books from the budget year that ended June 30.
In a written response, Edwards’ executive director of the Workforce Commission, Ava Dejoie, agreed with most of the audit findings and said fixes should be complete within months.
“My administration continues to work diligently to resolve all noted issues in the report,” Dejoie wrote. She added: “While considerable work remains, I think the progress made over the last fiscal year illustrates LWC’s commitment to satisfactorily resolving these findings.”
She disagreed, however, that the system’s security controls remain weak, saying her department has worked to “ensure our customers’ information remains protected.”
The Jindal administration began using the HiRE system in November 2015, weeks before the governor left office. The project was done under the supervision of Raj Jindal, who retired as the commission’s information services director in January 2016 when the Edwards administration took over. At least $4 million was spent on contracting costs for the system, according to auditors.
The system hadn’t passed necessary testing and caused widespread problems including incorrect unemployment payments and the stalling of thousands of fraud investigations after it went online, according to a December 2016 report from Purpera’s office.
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