After last week’s articles and statements about the difficulties identified within the Department of Human Services, Minnesotans didn’t expect to get blasted wit more graft, corruption and unauthorized payments. After reading this statement, though, it’s looking like reports like those will become relatively routine.
First, it’s totally legitimate to call some of what’s happening graft:
the acquisition of money, gain, or advantage by dishonest, unfair, or illegal means, especially through the abuse of one’s position or influence in politics, business, etc.
Let’s look at what’s been identified:
Senate Republican leaders announced a Senate Finance Committee hearing next week to examine the use of illegal contract and spending practices in state agencies. Based on recent reporting of brazen use by DHS employees of the 16A/16C forms that approve spending on services and purchases without a signed contract, a request has been made to the Department of Administration for their 16A and 16C forms across state government.
“This agency is the fastest growing part of our budget,” said Senator Julie Rosen, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “We’ve heard about the fraud in childcare assistance, we’ve seen the waste in overpayments to the tribes, and now we have abuse by agency staff spending money without approval and filing a ‘get out of jail free’ form each time.“
With the biennial budget signed, it’s time that Gov. Walz focused on fixing DHS. It’s the fastest-growing department in the budget. It’s filled with fraud, corruption or people who simply don’t give a damn:
Senator Michelle Benson, Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said “Commissioner Harpstead has been given an impossible task. The CFO at DHS has been trying to fix this problem, but the entrenched bureaucracy is preventing meaningful change. The governor needs to stop the ribbon cuttings and dig into fixing DHS,” Benson concluded.
It’s time for heads to roll. It’s foolish to argue that the inmates aren’t running the prison within DHS. At this point, there’s too much proof that what few guidelines and safeguards exist aren’t taken seriously. Major departments can’t function without systems that are well thought out and taken seriously. Departments that ‘operate’ without well thought out guidelines are profiles in anarchy and chaos.
The 16A/16C form expressly states: A payment made in violation of this chapter is illegal. …the violation is just cause for the employee’s removal by the appointing authority or by the governor if an appointing authority other than the governor fails to do so. (Emphasis added.)
If Gov. Walz won’t take this crisis seriously, then he should get defeated in 2022 in a landslide. Wasting 100s of millions of dollars without legitimate oversight is certainly despicable, if not outright corrupt.
The frightening part of this is that it isn’t limited to a rogue agency. To use Jim Nobles’ characterization, this situation is “pervasive.” More on that in the next article.