More than one thousand convicted drug felons are receiving state welfare benefits illegally, according to initial findings of a state and federal investigation, and will be removed from the state's welfare rolls as individual findings are confirmed, Governor Mitch Daniels said today.
Daniels lauded state and federal agents who recently uncovered the problem, and presented awards to several state fraud investigators at the second Governor's Public Integrity Summit, hosted by Inspector General David Thomas. Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) investigator Kim Devoy, U.S. Department of Agriculture agent Lisa Nelson, and FSSA auditor Deb Currey received medals of commendation for the drug felon cross-match investigation. Mike Hoose, Patti Serbus, John Rihm and Al Marshal, all from the State Board of Accounts, were recognized for their efforts in ferreting out government inefficiency, waste, fraud and abuse. Their audits recovered $1.8 million from BMV accounts, and an additional $98,000 in State Police Pension funds . . .
A recent joint investigation by FSSA investigators and the USDA Office of Inspector General compared local welfare rolls with criminal history databases. In Marion County alone, more than 1,000 recipients of food stamps and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) were shown to have felony drug convictions. Further investigation is needed to confirm identities and receipt of benefits before any criminal referrals to local law enforcement authorities may occur, but Thomas said the ongoing investigation soon will be expanded statewide. That will likely result in further substantial savings as more ineligible recipients are identified . . .
While padding these FSSA workers on the back today, he uses their discovery as support for his privatization efforts. "The governor said the discoveries further illustrate the need for Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) reforms he announced last week that will include upgrading the state's antiquated procedures to give investigators better tools for determining recipients' eligibility," the press release said. "These investigators have found another example of the errors, waste and fraud rampant in our current system." "Just the cases found so far by our fraud fighters cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year," Daniels said.
It seems to me that one can conclude quite the opposite as for the privatization component of the governor's plan. If state workers are challenged and led to do a better job through the right kind of leadership, they can achieve the same kind of results the governor claims only a private company can achieve. Yes, their antiquated systems need updated to help weed out these types of errors, waste and fraud. But even without the new systems promised by the state's private contractors, these state workers managed to find and correct a serious problem. The governor's press release also put in a plug for the Inspector General, although there was nothing in it to suggest the IG's office was responsible for detecting this particular problem.