Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Healthcare fraud probes given more resources

Posted: November 11, 2008 - 3:00 pm EDT

The Justice Department’s inspector general found that U.S. attorneys directed more attorney hours toward healthcare fraud, firearms and organized crime than their offices were allocated, while extra positions Congress funded for counterterrorism went unfilled.Offices in large cities were most likely to dedicate more attorney hours to healthcare fraud, according to an audit report examining the resource management of the Justice Department’s 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices. The offices in Baltimore; Dallas; Detroit; the Eastern District of New York, which includes Brooklyn and Queens; Houston; Los Angeles; Miami; and Washington each dedicated two to five times their allocated number of full-time employees for healthcare.
Beginning in fiscal 2006, Congress allocated an additional 43 full-time-equivalent positions to counterterrorism but the inspector general found roughly the same number of attorneys with that focus through 2007 as in 2003. The Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys told auditors that the numbers were partially a result of the timing of the appropriations, inaccurate time reporting by attorneys and fewer terrorism matters referred to the offices than in previous years. Director Kenneth Melson, in a response to the inspector general, notes that U.S. attorneys are appointed by the president and are “afforded significant discretion to manage his or her office according to locally perceived priorities and needs.”

The report, however, finds fault with the data relied on to make decisions and with individual attorney evaluations that are performed infrequently because of budget constraints. -- by Gregg Blesch

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