HARRISBURG -- A program to help jobless people get their benefits is coming under scrutiny.
Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says taxpayers have a right to be frustrated by what his office found.
The auditor general says his investigation found "major accounting and oversight problems," with the state's unemployment compensation system. He says the problems need to be fixed immediately.
Take the layoff of 500 call center workers in December, add a computer network running on a system designed in the 1950s, and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale says you have an unemployment compensation system on the brink of collapse.
"To say that it is being held together with bubble gum is an insult to bubble gum," DePasquale said.
In the weeks after December's layoff of call center workers, some newly unemployed people in our area could not get help on the phone.
The audit found that in January, 99.3 percent of those needing help got busy signals. The audit also found the state Department of Labor and Industry, which runs the unemployment compensation program, spent $60 million over four years, without being able to account for how the money was spent.
DePasquale says Labor and Industry needs to spend $160 million over the next four years on staffing and upgraded equipment just to maintain its level of service.
"This is where you've got to bring in a new vendor. You've got to upgrade the system. You've got to have the proper training for the employees who use the new system," said DePasquale.
A leading Republican lawmaker believes there's a better fix. State Senator Scott Wagner, who is running for governor, wants the unemployment compensation system in Pennsylvania privatized.
"Prove me wrong, but I guarantee you somebody could come in from the private sector and put a system in place for under $50 million that would handle all these functions," said Sen. Scott Wagner, (R) York County.
But DePasquale says a modernized computer system, and the return of furloughed call center workers is a more responsible solution.
"I think there's actually a road map to get a long-term plan moving forward."
The state legislature and Governor Wolf recently came up with $15 million to bring back about 200 of those call center jobs. That's enough money to pay those workers for nine months.