A scathing new audit by the Erie County comptroller is putting a harsh spotlight on the Buffalo Urban League. It accuses the organization of overbilling taxpayers to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.
"At the very best, it's gross mismanagement," said Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw (R). "And at the worst, it's fraud."
Mychajliw says seven employees came forward with concerns about the organization. However, the CEO of Buffalo Urban League, which is under contract with the county to work with cases of reported abuse and neglect in a prevention program, calls the allegations "ridiculous" and "inaccurate."
The comptroller claims that Buffalo Urban League overbilled the county by $40,000, mostly through overbilling of supervisors. Brenda McDuffie, the company's CEO, says about $20,000 of that came from a billing error, in which new supervisors entered a lump sum rather than one day's work. She stated that money, and more, has been paid back totaling more than $30,000.
"Anything that was not consistent with our practice or protocol or what's normally acceptable billing, we corrected ourselves," McDuffie told 7 Eyewitness News.
She disputes the rest of the difference.
Mychajliw also stated concern about a difference in two different systems used by the Buffalo Urban League. He says that BUL was only authorized to use a system called Connections, which has been set-up to be secure. Mychajliw says in addition to Connections, the organization has been using a system called Access.
"Anyone at the BUL with access to the computer system can have access to highly confidential case files of children," Mychajliw stated, adding that case information is on an insecure system.
McDuffie says that Connections does not contain billing information, hence the use of an additional system. She adds that the only change recommended by the State's Office of Child and Family Services, to take out certain client information from the billing system, has already been implemented.
The county comptroller also stated that employees claim they have not received adequate training, and that "the Buffalo Urban League did not show documents to show their employees have received this critically important training."
McDuffie countered, stating that "a worker that comes to us does not even get their own cases until three months into training."
The auditing report has been handed over to the Erie County Legislature. Any further review or action would be up to them.
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