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NEWS from the Office of the New York State Comptroller
Contact: Press Office 518-474-4015

State Comptroller DiNapoli Releases Audits

September 6, 2023

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced today the following audits have been issued.

State University of New York – Oversight of Disability Services (2021-S-42)

The State University of New York (SUNY) is the largest comprehensive system of public education in the nation, serving about 370,000 students each year. During the 2020-21 academic year, 31,367 students self-reported a disability at the campuses. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by public entities, including access to programs, activities, and services. The 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design (ADA Standards) set minimum scoping and technical requirements for newly designed and constructed or altered State and local government facilities, public accommodations, and commercial facilities. For a sample of six campuses (Binghamton University, Maritime College, Stony Brook University, SUNY Morrisville, SUNY Cobleskill, and SUNY Oneonta), auditors found they provided academic accommodations to students with disabilities, provided outreach and training to students and staff about their services, and received no complaints regarding discrimination. With the exception of SUNY Morrisville, the campuses adequately documented that students who reported a disability either were provided accommodations or did not complete the self-reporting process. Additionally, auditors found that buildings, structures, and parking lots at the six campuses were ADA compliant, but also identified 170 areas where accessibility could potentially be improved should SUNY seek to go beyond the minimum ADA Standards.

Department of Health – Improper Medicaid Payments for Outpatient Services Billed as Inpatient Claims (2022-S-16)

The State’s Medicaid program reimburses hospitals for services. A recipient’s status in a hospital – inpatient versus outpatient – affects Medicaid’s reimbursement for services provided. Inpatient care generally requires recipients to stay overnight in the hospital and be monitored throughout treatment and recovery. Generally, outpatient services are medical procedures that can be performed in the same day, commonly making them less expensive because they are less involved and do not require a patient’s continued presence in a facility. The audit identified 34,264 fee-for-service inpatient claims, totaling $360.6 million, where hospitals reported the recipients were discharged within 24 hours of admission. There is a high risk that a portion of these claims were improper if the services provided should have been billed as outpatient. For a judgmental sample of 190 claims, totaling $4,261,428, from six hospitals, auditors found 91 claims (48%), totaling $1,577,821, were billed improperly. There is an equally high risk that a portion of the remaining 34,074 claims, totaling $356 million, were likewise improperly billed as inpatient services.

State Education Department (Preschool Special Education Audit Initiative) – Queens Centers for Progress – Compliance With the Reimbursable Cost Manual (2022-S-41)

Queens Centers for Progress, a New York City-based not-for-profit organization, is approved by the State Education Department (SED) to provide preschool special education services to children with disabilities who are between the ages of 3 and 5 years. For the three fiscal years ended June 30, 2019, Queens Centers for Progress reported approximately $14.8 million in reimbursable costs for the SED preschool cost-based programs. Auditors identified $257,297 in reported costs that did not comply with requirements.

New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development – Mitchell-Lama Vacancies (Follow-Up) (2022-F-34)

The Mitchell-Lama Housing Program provides affordable rental and cooperative housing to middle-income families. The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) supervises 93 Mitchell-Lama rental and limited-equity cooperative developments with approximately 47,000 total apartments in NYC. Apartments in Mitchell-Lama developments tend to be desirable because of their affordability; consequently, the waiting lists for many of these apartments can be quite lengthy. To ensure efficient turnover of vacant apartments, HPD’s Reporting and Compliance Directive (Directive) requires developments to fill vacancies within 120 days. A prior audit report, issued in July 2021, found that, despite the scarcity of affordable housing, vacant apartments were generally not filled in the 120-day time frame, with 1,286 apartments taking, on average, 222 days to fill, including 214 that remained vacant for a year or longer. As of December 31, 2019, 78 developments reported 670 vacancies, 371 (55%) of which had been vacant for over 120 days, including 111 apartments vacant for over a year and eight apartments vacant for more than three years. At one development, 15 apartments had been vacant for as long as 30 years. The follow-up found HPD made some progress in addressing the problems identified in the initial audit report, but more action is needed. HPD made efforts to simplify data reporting and analysis, improve monitoring of developments, identify developments with consistent delays filling vacancies, and repair uninhabitable apartments, but did not provide documentation to support their review or analysis of vacancy reports or verification of action plans to fill vacant apartments. Of the initial report’s six audit recommendations, one was implemented, four were partially implemented, and one was not implemented.

Office of Children and Family Services – Oversight of Adult Protective Services Programs (Follow-Up) (2023-F-6)

The Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) oversees Adult Protective Services (APS), State-mandated services for adults who, because of a mental or physical impairment, are unable to meet their essential needs, need protection from harm, and have no one available to assist them responsibly. To ensure that APS activities meet State standards, OCFS conducts Practice Reviews (Reviews) of each APS provider and may require a provider to submit a written program improvement plan (PIP). A prior audit report, issued in November 2021, found that OCFS policies and procedures lacked explicit guidance on critical aspects of the Review process, including time frames for conducting Reviews, follow-up with providers regarding deficiencies and PIPs, and documentation of these efforts. Further, progress notes were not always entered into the case files within the required time frame and, thus, may not have captured the most accurate record of events to ensure that clients’ needs were met. The initial audit found the most prevalent case file documentation issues with the Staten Island field office – issues also identified during OCFS’ 2017 Review. However, OCFS did not follow up on these deficiencies. The follow-up found OCFS made progress with these issues, but improvements are still needed. OCFS worked to improve data relating to APS referrals and APS provider actions and revised policies and procedures to outline required Review activities and designate responsible staff and timelines. However, the new procedures lacked guidance regarding follow-up with APS providers who showed deficiencies after corrective actions had been taken to address PIPs. Of the initial report’s three recommendations, one was implemented and the other two were partially implemented.

Homes and Community Renewal – Office of Rent Administration – Collection of Fines Related to Tenant Complaints (Follow-Up) (2023-F-9)

The Office of Rent Administration (ORA), part of Homes and Community Renewal (HCR), administers rent laws and regulations for regulated apartments in the State. Non-compliance and harassment cases filed by rent-regulated tenants that cannot be resolved by settlement, mediation, or conference are heard before an Administrative Law Judge. Owners found to be in violation could face fines of at least $1,000 for each first non-compliance offense and at least $2,000 for each first harassment offense. A prior audit report, issued in December 2019, found ORA lacked proper fiscal controls over fines and settlements, providing limited assurance that all monies due to the State were received and accounted for. ORA was also not exercising its full authority to collect outstanding fines in a more timely manner. While most owners paid their fines, at least $346,000 in fines was outstanding as of April 10, 2019, including $206,000 in fines and interest dating back to 1995. The follow-up found ORA made progress with addressing these issues, establishing a system to accurately track fines and settlements, improving communication about fines among different divisions and units of HCR, and reinstating a process to refer judgments for collection. However, ORA has not identified a process for tracking repeat offenders, stating another unit within HCR performs that function. ORA has also not enhanced protections for rent-controlled tenants outside NYC, citing legal constraints. Of the initial report’s six recommendations, three were implemented, one was partially implemented, and two were not implemented.