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Calif. Counties Challenge State Controller On IHSS Overpayments

— California counties say State Controller John Chiang's report on overpayments to dead people in an in-home care program is way off base. San Diego County officials said last week the controller's review of alleged over-payments here was faulty.

Controller Chiang reported that in 2008, San Bernardino County paid out $534,000 to people in IHSS who were listed as dead. But San Bernardino's own review found $17,000 in such payments. The controller said tiny Plumas County made $1,500 in overpayments based on death match data. But that county says its records show zero payments to dead people.

Frank Mecca of the County Welfare Directors Association says the controller's errors were not limited to these examples.

"Based on our sort of back of the envelope talking to counties, we think that they could be wrong in excess of 80 or 90 percent," says Mecca.

Mecca says the controller could have learned of his mistakes before they were made public. But Chiang had told counties his review was not an audit and there would be no written report. Mecca says counties learned of the controller's findings through a press release and a six-page letter to the state department of social services without being given a chance to rebut. Mecca wants the controller to correct his report. But Chiang's spokesman Jacob Roper says that's unlikely.

"The listing county by county is accurate," says Roper. "That's what came up in a cross check of the data. Now the problem could be at the department of social services level or it could be at the county level. But that's what the data showed us."

Roper says the controller's review of IHSS was not an attempt to malign the counties or program but an effort to push the state to create stronger standards and protect taxpayer dollars.

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