Local News

Lawmakers Call for Complete Audit of Centralized Child Support System

Posted November 17, 1999

— For weeks, the state of North Carolina has been trying to figure out why the new Centralized Child Support System prevented so many parents from getting their checks.

Thursday,state lawmakerscame up with a plan of action to get to the bottom of the problem.

The consensus of the state's Joint Select Committee on Information Technology is that the child support system has a people problem, not a technical problem.

The group described the way the situation was handled as "jumping off a cliff." In light of the crisis, the committee has voted to have the state auditor investigate the system from top to bottom.

"[I've] got it all documented, every e-mail I've sent, who I've talked to, who I haven't talked to," says Sharon Tibbitts, who has become an expert on child support. That is because the state has $1,200 of her money.

Recently, they sent her a check that belonged to someone else. She promptly sent it back.

"There's just one big stack of checks, No one can figure out where they go. They supposedly have people working around the clock, but they still can't get it straightened out," says Tibbitts.

"Is this thing fixable?" asks one lawmaker.

Lawmakers and business leaders who met Thursday worry that parents do not have anymore time. They say the state failed to oversee the program properly in the beginning.

"When you contract out a government function, and it goes wrong, everybody's left sitting there going 'Well, who is accountable?'" asks Sen. Eric Reeves, D-Wake County.

To answer this question, the group has asked for a complete state audit of the system.

"Was there a better way? Is there a better way to implement this particular type of program?" asks State Auditor Ralph Campbell.

Tibbitts worries that if parents do not get help soon, they could turn violent.

"A mother will do basically anything she has to for her children," she says.

The audit is scheduled to be completed in April, but a lot of state leaders say more needs to be done to clean up the mess right now.

Bill Cobey, chairman of the state Republican Party, called for the resignation of Health and Human Services Secretary David Bruton. Cobey calls Bruton's management of the new system a disaster.


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