RALEIGH — A former contract physician at several North Carolina prisons falsified work time records that resulted in him getting paid at least $567,000 more than he should have over about three years, a state auditor’s report said Wednesday.
The findings from State Auditor Beth Wood’s office came from an investigation after the Department of Public Safety noticed discrepancies between the doctor’s records and entry and exit logs at prisons.
Wood said her staff calculated the doctor overbilled for more than 4,500 hours between July 2011 and May 2014, or nearly three-quarters of the doctor’s billable hours analyzed. Other records were incomplete, so the amount of overbilling may be higher, according to the report.
“DPS could have used these funds to meet other operational needs related to public safety,” the report said.
The report’s findings have been referred to the Wake County district attorney for possible fraud violations.
The doctor isn’t identified in the report, as is routine in Wood’s reports. The physician is also unnamed in the department’s written response attached to the findings. In the response, DPS Secretary Frank Perry said the agency was taking corrective actions to address Wood’s recommendations, including attempts to seek reimbursements from the physician and to review other time records by prison contract doctors for any overbilling.
The physician’s contract paid him $125 per hour for work performed at the five prisons where records were falsified, the report said, but the doctor told auditors he had a “tacit agreement” with the department to bill more hours than he was on-site — eight hours for a large prison visit and three hours for a smaller one.
Department administrators deny that arrangement. Some prison employees said their supervisors told them not to verify hours because it was difficult to find doctors to work at prisons, according to the report. The employees told investigators they couldn’t verify his hours because they didn’t observe the doctor working.
DPS terminated its contract with the physician in May 2014 after the physician told an administrator he wouldn’t work under new restrictions — only at three prisons and between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., the report said.
Perry said the department also would look at whether the physician may have overbilled the department before July 2011 and would review whether any DPS employee should be subject to disciplinary action based on the report findings.