Posted at: 05/21/2012 5:20 PM
| Updated at: 05/21/2012 5:50 PM
By: Beth Wurtmann
ALBANY - "Are you aware that your agency ranks the worst when it comes to paying bills on time," a NewsChannel 13 reporter asked.
"We're working very hard on it," said Dr. Nirav Shah.
That's what the State Health Department Commissioner told us back in February, when we reported that his agency racks up the most fees for paying bills late.
The fees are interest charges that mount up when payments to contractors like hospitals and health service providers, are more than 30 days late.
Taxpayers have to pick up the bill.
"You're wasting money, taxpayer money, in interest payments that you could avoid. Why are we doing it," questioned Thomas DiNapoli, New York State Comptroller, in February.
DiNapoli has long-criticized a number of agencies for late payments. Some of them improved. For instance, the Department of Correctional Services slashed its late fees in half, from 2010 to 2011.
But the Waste Watchers found some agencies still haven't cleaned up their act.
In 2010, the Health Department racked up over $577,000 in late fees. In 2011, the fees were over 1.3-million-dollars.
That's an increase of 745-thousand-dollars, a tab taxpayers pick up.
The State University of New York, also got worse on late fees, paying over $109,000 last year, an increase of more than $28,000 over the year before.
The Comptroller was not pleased with the trend, telling NewsChannel 13, "New York needs to eliminate these late payment penalties. While we've seen some improvement, penalties still went up last year, particularly at the Department of Health, and that needs to stop."
A spokesperson for the Health Department sent the following statement: "Like the changes made by the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT), which has resulted in $2.2B in Medicaid savings for New Yorkers, DOH is well on its way to reducing late payments and fees to vendors through the implementation of a new Statewide Financial System (SFS). The SFS is a single source system that is shared by a number of state agencies such as DOH and Division of Budget (DOB) that will coordinate and streamline the payment process across state agencies resulting in significant savings."