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Connecticut attorney general’s office criticized for poor fiscal management

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(The Center Square) — Connecticut’s top law enforcement office is being faulted for poor accounting practices that have cost the state millions of dollars in unretrievable debt and allowing unauthorized overtime that tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report by the state Auditors of Public Accounts, released Wednesday, found that an estimated $10 million owed to the AG’s office and other state agencies from court settlements and other receivables is “unrecoverable” and cited decades of lax accounting practices for the loss of revenue to state coffers.

“The office does not have a procedure to reconcile judgement and settlement proceeds to receipts and receivables recorded,” the auditors wrote. “We were unable to verify the accuracy and completeness of the receivables balance.”

In a response to the audit’s findings, the AG’s office acknowledged that its accounts receivable management has “not consistently and uniformly followed the procedures” but said it has implemented new policies to improve the process.

“We have taken steps to train our business office, section chiefs, paralegals, and support staff how to properly identify the debts,” the AG said. “The Office is also presently working with the Office of Policy Management to develop additional policies for the proper processing of accounts receivable, including the policies and procedures for submitting uncollectible debts for writeoff in a timely manner.”

The auditors also faulted the AG’s office for a lack of documented compensatory time approvals, with overtime costs for the agency tripling during the pandemic.

They noted one employee who earned 21.75 unapproved hours of compensatory time of their 39.75 hours of compensatory time earned.

Twenty-six employees in fiscal year 2020 and 118 employees in fiscal year 2021 earned compensatory time totaling 1,004 and 1,221 hours, respectively, the auditors found.

“Compensatory time was not pre-approved in compliance with collective bargaining agreements and agency policies,” the auditors wrote. “There was increased risk that employees may inappropriately earn compensatory time.”

Tong’s office responded that the AG’s attorneys “worked many hours” in 2020 and 2021 defending the state government from pandemic-related lawsuits, including challenges to the governor’s executive orders and expanded absentee voting.

“Some attorneys requested and were approved for compensatory time,” the AG’s office wrote. “To assist with these cases, some support staff were requested to work overtime to assist with typing, scanning, and copying.”

Auditors also cited the AG office’s use of paper time sheets to document the work hours of its 300-member staff of attorneys, paralegals and administrative employees.

The auditors called for stronger accounting controls in the AG’s office for collecting money from settlements of lawsuits against the state and overtime compensation, among other recommendations.

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