Report: N.O. program has deficiencies

A report the New Orleans Inspector General’s Office released Thursday said the city needs to better manage its self-insured workers’ compensation program with tighter controls and preventative measures.

Problems the OIG report found with the program include:

Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said the city needs a “comprehensive safety program designed to prevent employee injuries” since anyone injured while working is entitled to several expensive benefits, including medical bill payments and compensation for lost wages.

Workers’ families also are eligible for death benefits if the employee dies from an on-the-job incident.

The OIG report found that the city spent an average of $16 million on workers’ comp between 2008 and 2011.

The report says the city has worked to improve the program recently but that more action is necessary.

Responding to Quatrevaux’s report, Chief Administrative Office Andy Kopplin said the city is working on a “comprehensive” safety plan that will cover all departments and that not having a safety engineer for the past several years has not stopped safety training.

“Although many of the safety engineer’s responsibilities have been either reassigned or assumed by other individuals, we will examine whether it is most beneficial to the city to hire a full-time employee in that position,” Kopplin wrote in response to the report.

Additionally, Kopplin said, the city properly reviews the compensation program by working with a third-party administrator.

Still, he said, an outside audit should happen since the OIG pointed out that one has not occurred since at least 2000.

“We agree that it is prudent to have an independent audit of the city’s claims, and we are in the process of scheduling such an audit,” Kopplin wrote.