- Associated Press - Monday, May 26, 2014

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The Louisiana State Police lost out on millions of dollars it should have collected on background check fees for health care providers and ambulance staff, which it didn’t properly collect for 20 years, according to an audit released Monday.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office said a $10 fee was set in 1993 by a law requiring a criminal history check of any non-licensed person or licensed ambulance staff providing nursing care or health-related services. The fee was raised to $26 in 2002.

The law “states that an employer or authorized agency shall pay” the fee to the Office of State Police for a search of its criminal history files on a job applicant, auditors wrote.

Before July 1, 2013, the state police didn’t charge the fee for the tens of thousands of background check requests made through a sheriff’s office each year instead of directly to the state police, according to the review.

Management’s “interpretation of the statute from 1993 through 2013 was that the fee should be charged … only when the (state police) performed the background check services,” the audit says.

The sheriff’s office can charge its own processing fee, but that’s supposed to be on top of the $26 state police fee, auditors said.

Auditors said lost fee revenues from April 2012 through June 2013 totaled $3.2 million for more than 123,000 background checks submitted through a local sheriff’s office.

Nearly all the requests during that time were made through sheriffs’ offices rather than through the online process directly with the state police.

The total amount lost over two decades wasn’t clear, according to the report, because the state police told auditors that retrieval of the data from the archives “would be labor intensive for the department.”

The state police started collecting the fee for all background checks requested through sheriffs’ offices on July 1, 2013, according to the audit.

Purpera’s office recommended that the state police should seek a legal opinion about whether it can seek the uncollected fees for the last 20 years and suggested that state police management write formal policies for handling the billing and collection of the fees.

Jill Boudreaux, undersecretary for the Department of Public Safety, said because of “complex facts and conflicting jurisprudence” the state police will have to do more research before determining if it can charge the uncollected fees from prior years.

She said written procedures for fee collection and billing from sheriffs’ offices have been put in place.

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Online:

The audit can be found at: http://1.usa.gov/1r9ettC

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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