The problems at HHS continue to boil over with no end in sight. The Walz administration continues to try to calm the waters with big-name "fixers" who have long experience of crisis management. As you would expect from a Governor who owes his election in part to donations from Government Worker unions, his first priority seems to be DHS worker morale. Overlooked are the taxpayers who get to see their money disappear by the millions and the clients who represent some of the poorest and most vulnerable Minnesotans. His priorities are precisely backward.Read more
This issue page used to be called "childcare fraud" since that breaking story caught everybody's attention, including ours. But it turns out to be just one piece of the story that is the disastrous waste of money that is Minnesota HHS. Not even just DHS. The Health Department has also been implicated in gross wrongdoing, lack of accountability, and oversight. It has served nobody; the vulnerable, the young, the old --anybody who relies on that social safety net. It has served the taxpayer poorly by allowing criminals of all kinds to grift and steal money from state and federal funds. There are various theories about what to do about it. Senator Michelle Benson, Chair of the HHS Finance Committee has suggested in a recent podcast that HHS could be broken up. The segments might include DHS, Inspector General, and Health Department areas. Others have suggested a separate agency for child protective services. Whatever happens, we must not allow this situation to simply grow the amount of government, as if that is the solution to the problem. More government is never the solution. More accountability, transparency, and checks on this system are the solution. In fact, with what we know about how much is being stolen, we could be spending at least a billion dollars less on what we are getting now. That's a billion in state AND federal money.
Before we do that, it's important to take a wider look at the problems at HHS. Here is a timeline we've developed that reviews the recent firings and resignations and goes back farther, not just to the Dayton Administration but to the end of the Pawlenty administration. Three governors and both parties have not been able to organize this critical area, in a way that prevents thieving, cheating, and fraud on a massive scale. Nor have they protected the most vulnerable from harm.
click here for a timeline of HHS failures, with clickable links to past stories.
On Thursday, March 14, the New House Republicans gave their statement on the CCAP Fraud report by the legislative auditor.
They are pursuing 5 different steps, briefly:
1. They called for federal investigations, sending direct written requests to the US Attorney in Minneapolis, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services.
2. Called for the resignation of Carolyn Ham, the Inspector General of the Minnesota Department of Human Services and if she does not resign, Governor Walz needs to fire her.
3. Create a new watchdog on welfare fraud. The Office of the Inspector General was supposed to do this, it failed. There is a need to rethink this agency from the ground up.
4. Shut the door on fraud by making it harder for criminals and follow up on prosecutions when criminal activity is revealed. The four members plan to drop a bill that will do the following;
- Make child care fraud a specific crime with criminal and civil penalties;
- Establish a life-time welfare ban for convicts;
- Require future child care providers to repay any subsequent fraud;
- Ban care providers from programs if they do not cooperate with investigators;
- Allow the Bureau of the Public Trust to check recipients for eligibility;
- Ban all forms of benefits for persons convicted of child care fraud and;
- Bar parents of recipient children from working at child care centers.
5. Get rid of CCAP as we know it. To replace CCAP, the NHRC will streamline and simplify the other six child care programs
operated by the state. For adults who want to look after children in their neighborhood, the rules need to be easier to follow and understand. Legal barriers should be lowered. To fight corruption, subsidies should not be paid to providers. They should be paid to working parents and parents in job-training programs.