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Audit: $500K Spent By LA County Child Welfare On Phones, Calls Was Bogus

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(credit: AP Photo/Dan Gill)

(credit: AP Photo/Dan Gill)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — An audit found that a quarter of the Los Angeles County child welfare department’s 2009 cell phone bill was wasted on unnecessary or “inappropriate” charges, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

A report by the Los Angeles County Auditor-Controller found that about $500,000 of the $2.2 million spent last year on cell phones paid for devices that were never used or for personal calls to foreign countries, according to the Times.

Trish Ploehn, who was removed last week as director of the Department of Children and Family Services, was given a draft copy of the audit this fall, the newspaper reported.

In an initial response to the report in September, Ploehn wrote that she would provide the county Board of Supervisors with a detailed plan to address issues raised.

“We generally agree with the majority of the recommendations contained in the report and completely concur that it is the department’s responsibility to safeguard county resources,” Ploehn wrote.

However, the Times reported that no additional plan from the department has since been submitted, according to supervisors’ aides and the county’s website tracking correspondence between departments and the board.

The audit found that welfare officials did have up-to-date logs and could not identify users for more than 250 active phones.

It also found that more than 1,400 of the department’s 5,000 phones were not used by employees, yet were activated and incurred $330,000 in service charges. One worker compiled $2,000 in personal international calls.

At the same time, officials have acknowledged that the department refused to give cell phones to child abuse investigators.

Susan Herman, a spokeswoman for county Chief Executive William T Fujioka, told the Times the county “takes the audit findings very seriously, and DCFS is going to be giving out a detailed response sometime soon.”

Herman also said child welfare officials are reevaluating a policy of denying child abuse investigators cell phones.

“We are committed to giving employees the tools they need to make children and families safe,” she told the newspaper.

According to the audit, the department has begun canceling services for phones for which there was no identified user.

 (© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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