Audit examines Dept. of Intellectual, Developmental Disabilities - WSMV Channel 4

Audit reveals problems at Dept. of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

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A new audit is pointing out big problems with a state agency that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The report found missing background checks, botched death investigations and millions of dollars in waste.

The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities disputes some of those findings, but not all.

The department serves more than 8,000 clients - many living in state institutions or in community settings. They are the state's most vulnerable citizens.

"These findings are serious. We hope the department takes them in that light," said Deborah Loveless, with the state comptroller's office.

The comptroller's office found one department official was able to derail investigations into how clients died.

The most serious finding involves the way two deaths were handled. The comptroller's office says there were substantiated allegations of wrongdoing involving employees of a service provider. The then-deputy commissioner overturned the findings, and the contract provider was never held accountable.

The audit did not disclose who died or where this happened.

"It was clearly out of his authority to do so. We have made changes to strengthen our system and to prevent this from ever happening again," said Cara Kumari, spokeswoman for the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

The deputy commissioner referred to in the report is Scott Modell, who has since transferred to the Department of Children's Services, and the death investigations are continuing.

"We also plan to bring those cases back to the investigations review committee to have a fresh set of eyes take a look at that," Kumari said.

In other findings, auditors say the department spent more than $4 million on a computer system that never worked, but the department disputes the money was wasted.

Auditors also found some employees and volunteers didn't have background checks.

"It's very important that they provide a safe environment for their clients," Loveless said.

"At no point in time were any people without a clean background check ever left alone with any of the people we support," Kumari said.

Officials from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are set to appear before state lawmakers in a subcommittee meeting Wednesday at 9 a.m. at Legislative Plaza.

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