Department of Human Services Inspector General Carolyn Ham confirmed Monday that she was placed on “investigative leave” following the Office of the Legislative Auditor’s report on fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).
Ham is the only inspector general in Minnesota, and her office is housed under the Department of Human Services. As such, she is responsible for investigating the DHS’s programs, like CCAP.
Last week’s report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor confirmed that millions of dollars in government payments went to fraudulent child care centers, and described a “serious rift” among officials overseeing CCAP.
It also revealed that some “child care center owners have recruited CCAP eligible mothers by offering to pay kickbacks to entice the mothers to advise county CCAP staff that their children are attending a particular center.”
The report prompted multiple efforts from Republican legislators to subpoena Ham for testimony, but those efforts were repeatedly blocked, as The Minnesota Sun previously reported.
Other Republican lawmakers called for Ham’s resignation, and raised questions about why her office reports to the DHS, since her main task is to investigate the department’s programs.
“The child-care rip-off is the biggest scandal in Minnesota history, and the state government cannot even tell us how much has been stolen. We need action on every front,” Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) said in a press release.
The New House Republican Caucus called for a federal investigation, the firing of Ham, and the creation of an “independent watchdog office” for taxpayers.
On Monday, Ham confirmed with MPR’s Brian Bakst that she was placed on “investigative leave” following the release of the report.
“I guess I became the scapegoat,” she said, but only after DHS provided Bakst with multiple “cryptic” updates, telling him Monday afternoon that Ham is “out of the office.”
“Carolyn Ham is any employee of the Minnesota Department of Human Services; she is currently out of the office. Data privacy laws limit what we can say beyond this information,” the DHS said in a second statement.
This is a breaking story, and more details will be provided as they become available.
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