- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2011

The Maryland agency responsible for collecting child support let millions go uncollected by overlooking such collection methods as garnishing wages and seizing bank accounts, according to a state audit released Monday.

In a review from 2007 to 2010, the state Office of Legislative Audits found Maryland’s Child Support Enforcement Administration in many cases also did not suspend the occupational licenses of parents who were more than 120 days late on payments. In addition, local child-support offices under the agency’s supervision failed to make sure that businesses reported new employees to a statewide registry and did not follow up on federal reports that identified residents as eligible for wage withholding.

Auditors found that in fiscal 2010, the state collected just $530 million — two-thirds of which came from wage withholding — on $1.72 billion in total support owed to the state. And state enforcers did not withhold wages from nearly 9,000 parents who owed a total of $88 million in child support, though many were eligible for withholding.

“It is a tough concept because there are a lot of dollars there,” said legislative auditor Bruce A. Myers.

He declined to estimate how much the oversights cost the state but said total collections were similar to those found in previous reports.

“We’re not saying they did a good or bad job,” Mr. Myers said. “We’re just identifying areas where we think they can enhance their collection efforts.”

The audit also found agency officials checked with only seven of the state’s 15 licensing authorities to see whether license holders were eligible for suspensions and suspended the licenses of just a handful of nearly 7,000 child-support-owing license holders.

Agency officials also took an unnecessarily light approach to seizing bank funds from delinquent parents, auditors said. State law allows the agency to seize bank funds from parents who own more than $500 and have not paid support for more than 60 days. But it chose to seize funds only from those who own more than $2,500.

In addition, auditors found officials failed to verify incorrect parent Social Security numbers in their records.

The state Department of Human Resources, which oversees the agency, said in a letter to state auditors last month that it has resolved many of the findings in the report by methods that include improving contact with state licensing agencies and developing an automated wage-garnishing process to increase collections by $1.4 million this year.