Minnesota House Republicans made multiple attempts this week to subpoena Department of Human Services Inspector General Carolyn Ham to discuss the fraudulent activity in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), but those efforts were repeatedly thwarted.
On Wednesday, the Office of the Legislative Auditor released its long-awaited report on the fraud allegations against CCAP, confirming that millions of dollars in government payments went to fraudulent child care centers.
The report also described a “serious rift” among officials running CCAP, and confirmed that some “child care center owners have recruited CCAP eligible mothers by offering to pay kickbacks to entice the mothers to advice county CCAP staff that their children are attending a particular center.”
“I’m outraged at this, and so should Minnesotans be outraged,” Gov. Tim Walz told The Star Tribune in response to the report. “If we allow fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement, we’re depriving people on waiting lists and undermining trust in the system.”
Republican lawmakers called for Ham’s resignation upon reading the report. Others raised questions about why her office is housed in the Department of Human Services in the first place, since her main task is to investigate the department’s programs, Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) pointed out.
“It appears that DHS has grown lax in their oversight of both fraud and quality. The remedy is to restructure—to separate the oversight from the delivery of services and to create an independent office of the Inspector General,” Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) told The Star Tribune.
But on Thursday, the House Early Childhood and Education Committee blocked a Republican effort to subpoena Ham. And then on Friday, the DFL-majority House Health and Human Services Committee defeated a similar motion.
Franson and her Republican colleagues have introduced a bill that would establish criminal penalties for anyone who fails to cooperate in a CCAP fraud investigation, but it has so far failed to move out of committee.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Carolyn Ham” by Minnesota Department of Human Services.