- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Hundreds of South Carolina people with disabilities have been overcharged roughly $2 million for their care in group homes, according to a report released Thursday.

An audit revealed that 10 providers for the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs overcharged 329 disabled clients $1.3 million in rent between July 2012 and July 2014. An estimated $600,000 more is owed to clients from the fiscal year that ended June 30, state Inspector General Patrick Maley said.

Despite having been directed twice since spring 2014 to change their calculations to comply with federal regulations, none of the 10 did and overcharging continued, Maley wrote in a four-page letter accompanying the report. The accounting firm’s audit began last fall.

Eight of those providers did not properly credit federal housing subsidies meant to offset room and board costs. But they didn’t financially benefit from the errors.

They erred by tallying all of their clients’ credits and granting each person an average figure rather than applying the different amounts each person qualified for based on their circumstances. That resulted in both overcharges and undercharges.

One provider, however, gave no credit while keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal subsidies.

The final provider made what Maley described as minor calculation errors. He said he found no criminal intent.

His recommendations to the state agency included requiring the 10 providers to reimburse the overcharged residents.

On Thursday, the agency’s board decided to provide half of the reimbursements for the two years covered by the audit. It also decided against asking anyone who inadvertently benefited from the errors to pay.

The board chose to split the overage costs “in the interest of assuring consumers are paid back as quickly as possible and ensure there’s no hardship created on providers’ ability to continue services,” said Lois Park Mole, spokeswoman for the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs.

The agency is also directing the providers to recalculate what residents should have paid in the past fiscal year and repay any of those overcharges, too.

Maley’s letter did not identify which provider kept all of the subsidy money.

But the accompanying report by Burkett, Burkett and Burkett shows Greenville County’s disability board overcharged the most. Disabled clients there paid nearly $330,000 more than they should have in the two-year audit period. The board’s director did not immediately return a message Thursday.

The state has 18 providers. Eight were properly charging residents.

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