Audit finds more violations at Department of Human Services

An internal audit has found several violations of laws to prevent fraud, waste and abuse in a Department of Human Services division responsible for a string of improper payments, the department announced Tuesday.

The audit report said the behavioral health division — which was responsible for $29 million in overpayments to two American Indian bands and $70 million in improper payments to chemical dependency providers — skirted state laws on contracting and conflict of interest.

None of the violations involved multimillion dollar payment errors, the Star Tribune reported, but most pointed to failures to follow rules designed to prevent bigger problems. The audit was conducted in response to several internal complaints. The agency’s auditors substantiated five of the nine alleged violations.

“We want people to see that we are listening and we are taking action,” Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead told the newspaper. “I am grateful to anyone who came forward to report things.”

Gov. Tim Walz brought in Harpstead last year to stabilize an agency rocked by what the Legislative Auditor has called “troubling dysfunction” that resulted in the improper payments.

The commissioner said she would “immediately” follow the internal agency auditors’ recommendations to tighten up controls in several areas.