Nebraska Audit Blasts Child Welfare Services

LINCOLN (AP) - A new state audit alleges that Nebraska's effort to privatize child welfare services has increased costs by 27 percent over the last two years and led to millions of dollars in overpayments to one service provider. Nebraska State Auditor Mike Foley told a legislative panel Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services failed to publicly bid multi-million dollar contracts with private service providers, and spent thousands of dollars on duplicate claims and payments to the wrong contractors. Foley called the agency's lack of cooperation with his auditors "among the worst ever encountered in my office." Kerry Winterer, the department's CEO, says agency officials "strongly and fundamentally disagree" with the findings. He disputes claims that the service provider was overpaid, and says the agency cooperated with auditors.