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Welfare-to-work contractor billed government for 'no-show' clients

The Human and Social Development ministry investigated a private job placement office last year after it was discovered the company was billing the government for helping clients even though the clients were “no-shows”.

The HSD office in Prince George raised questions about why WCG International HR Solution's office in the city had already billed the ministry for intake for clients it later described as “intake no-shows”, according to a March 2009 report the Tyee obtained through a freedom of information request.

WCG runs the welfare-to-work program JobWave as well as the Triumph program for people with disabilities. It is a subsidiary of Tucson, Arizona based Providence Service Corporation.

The discrepancy arose because the office was using a two-step intake process, the report found. The office was requiring clients to come for an orientation then return “some time later” for an intake interview, it said.

“The intake fee is billed at the orientation step,” it said. “This practice . . . has resulted in over-billings and delays in identifying clients that should not be accepted into [the B.C. Employment Program].”

The investigators identified $2,800 in overbillings. Also, of the eight intakes they looked at from January and February last year, just one was done within the 21-days allowed under WCG's contract with the government.

The investigators compared the two-step process with what was happening at seven other WCG offices and found the others were completing their intakes in a single step.

WCG's president and CEO, Darlene Bailey, responded to BCEP director Tracy Orr in a May 7, 2009, letter.

“Delivery staff have received additional training on the requirement that the entire intake process needs to be completed prior to either accepting or declining a BCEP client,” Bailey wrote. “Regional management and our quality assurance team will closely monitor to assure that no further examples occur.”

WCG would deduct the amount overbilled from its next invoice for the area, she said.

In August, 2008, WCG lost a contract to deliver the BCEP in the interior, the Tyee reported. Prince George is in the program's northern region. The ministry refused access to records relating to the interior cancellation under the section of the FOI act that prevents disclosures that would be harmful to the financial or economic interests of a public body.

The BCEP program is worth about $35 million a year. A PricewaterhouseCoopers review, the Tyee recently reported, found some 12 percent of the money was paid in situations where the contractors did not meet the documentation requirements.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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