Controller Ron Knecht says he and his staff are hoping a new electronic tracking system will help them collect at least some of the $92 million owed to the state.
But his assistant controller Jim Smack admitted the reality is they will probably collect only a small portion of the debt, some of which is a decade or more old.
Smack said the effort is worth waiting for until that new system is online at the end of March because, “even if we lose half of that, there’s still $46 million we’re going to have a crack at.”
Assembly Minority Leader Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, made it clear she doesn’t see the new system and one additional employee the same way. She said they have been adding employees and funding to the program since 2009, “yet we have collected no more money.
“I don’t know what we’re doing except spinning our wheels,” she said.
“I would agree with you,” said Smack. “There’s a lot of older debt in our office we’re getting ready to write off but I want to take one more look at that debt,” said Smack.
But he said the difference this time is if CGI, a debt collections software company, doesn’t perform and collect money for the state, it doesn’t get paid.
“The system has to perform before they get their money,” he said.
Knecht said he understands legislative skepticism.
“But the new system is coming online next month. We need that new staffing to see if we can improve collection rates and bring you some money,” he said.
Smack said after the hearing one of the controller’s office problems is “we’re getting the worst of the worst.”
He said one problem has been state agencies don’t turn over debt within the required 60 days.
“State agencies, for the most part, haven’t been in compliance in turning over debt to us,” he said.
Now, Smack said they are doing so and, “dumping on us so we’re getting everything from 120 days to 20 years old.”
Both men said after that debt is processed and the uncollectable part of it written off by the Board of Examiners, the new debt coming in to the controller’s office will be much more recent and, therefore, much more collectable.
At that point, Smack said most of the debt will be much more current — just 60-120 days old — and they will have a much better chance of collecting on it.
Smack also promised lawmakers they would keep everyone advised on the status of the outstanding debt and their progress in collecting on it.
The discussion came as part of the controller’s office’s budget hearing.