Sometimes it’s just mind-boggling to try and fathom what goes through the minds of our political leaders.
The only possible explanation may be found in the 1969 book The Peter Principle by Dr. Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull. In their book, they introduced the “salutary science of hierarchiology” which theorized that in a hierarchy, employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence.
Take, for example, that news release from the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) just last Aug. 13. DHH trumpeted the recovery of more than $124 million in fraudulent payments in the Medicaid program, “the highest rate of recovery in any state in the nation at nearly 2 percent of all Medicaid dollars spent in Louisiana.
One must wonder just where the oversight was at the time that should have caught and prevented such overpayments.
Yet, only two months prior to that announcement, a red-faced DHH learned that one of its own had embezzled more than $1 million to finance her gambling addiction.
In that case, DHH accountant Deborah Loper was accused of diverting funds over a six-year period in a scheme that revealed glaring weaknesses in departmental policy.
Her arrest warrant said she intercepted more than 130 checks payable to DHH “meant for invaluable health care services for Louisiana’s Medicaid recipients,” Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said.
She had been entrusted to manage a bank account opened in 2006 on behalf of the National Association of State Human Services Financial Officers in order to underwrite the association’s 2009 conference.
Former DHH fiscal director Stan Mead volunteered to hold the conference and designated Loper and her immediate supervisor to organize the event. Loper was given responsibility for management of the account and had the authority to conduct financial transactions, the warrant said.
She was instructed to close the account following the conference but instead, fabricated documents so as to give the appearance she had complied but instead, merely changed the address on the account so that she could receive the monthly statements at her home.
The main source of the money was Medicaid reimbursements that were issued to DHH by licensed Medicaid providers and were intended to be returned to the state’s Medicaid program, Caldwell said.
Her embezzlement went unnoticed by her superiors until February of 2013 when she inadvertently deposited one of the checks for more than $40,000 into her own account and her bank subsequently froze her account.
Only three months before the revelation of that financial oversight by DHH officials, we learned of an ongoing FBI investigation into that infamous $300 million contract with CNSI which quickly resulted in cancellation of the contract by the Jindal administration and the resignation of DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein.
Then in February of this year, Greenstein’s undersecretary Jerry Phillips announced his retirement after 25 years at DHH. Oddly, he announced he was retiring to “pursue other employment options with the state.”
DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said Jeff Reynolds would replace Phillips on March 10, the same day the legislative session convenes.
Reynolds started with DHH as an Accountant Administrator 5 in July of 2006 at $102,000 per year. Most recently, he served as Medicaid Deputy Director at $113,734 per year.
And the person who served as Loper’s immediate supervisor while she was skimming that $1 million from DHH?