9 Investigates: Are your tax dollars paying for poor performance

by: Allison Latos Updated:

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NORTH CAROLINA —

Lawmakers are furious and have told Eyewitness News that one department director received hundreds of thousands of tax dollars that she didn't deserve.

The new Medicaid computer system she oversees is millions over budget and years behind schedule.

Eyewitness News asked why she was paid and what lawmakers plan to do about the issue now.

Inside the Mecklenburg County social services office, employees track and pay Medicaid claims on these computers, but a state project to revamp that computer system is overdue and over budget.

The Medicaid management information system was supposed to be complete in August 2011 to file Medicaid patients' claims faster so they receive payments faster and track fraud.

The state audit says the IT project will be 22 months late and cost taxpayers $320 million more than the original price tag of $265 million.

State Rep. Justin Burr chairs the Health and Human Services oversight committee. He told Eyewitness News that he is frustrated with the delay, but even more he is outraged over new findings.

The woman in charge of the project, Angie Sligh, has received more than $200,000 extra over the past several years.

"I'm furious at it. Perhaps we found out why she's dragged MMIS out as long as she has. She seems to be making some pretty good money over there," said Burr.

State Sen. Andrew Brock said he discovered the bonus pay through his seat on the IT committee. When other IT employees asked for similar pay, he took a closer look at the MMIS budget.

"It seemed like there was a special line item for bonus pay outside of our state payroll system, and according to state law we don't have bonus pay for state employees," Brock.

Both lawmakers claim DHHS used an exemption for medical personnel to pay Sligh and some of her staffers.

Eyewitness News looked up the loophole through the state office of personnel.

The policy is meant to avoid critical staff shortages in medical areas.

Eyewitness News went to the DHHS office in Raleigh for an explanation.

Spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said Sligh could not meet Eyewitness News, but explained the bonuses are technically overtime pay.

"It wasn't something DHHS pulled out of thin air. We talked to the office of state personnel about it, we talked to the state budget office and we reported it," said Pearson.

Pearson said Sligh and her staffers must work 200 extra hours each year before that additional straight-time pay starts accruing and the agency said lawmakers are to blame for the time and money overruns.

"Most of those hiccups have been because of changes in state law or federal law," said Pearson.
DHHS argues those changes forces them to tweak the project, but that it should be up and running for state workers next summer.

Lawmakers like Burr and Brock want to stop bonuses before then and plan to address the controversy when the legislature is back in session in January. DHHS said Sligh's position is underpaid compared to Georgia and South Carolina.

They are now looking to increase the salary for her and the other staffers, but it is not clear how much more they could earn.

"That won't justify what he has allowed to take place," said Burr.