Monday, December 04, 2006

Governor Rewards FSSA Employees For Fraud-Fighting

Last week, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) had little good to say about the job employees of the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) were doing managing the state's welfare programs as he announced his administration would award a $1 billion plus privatization contract to a consortium of companies, which includes the former employer of FSSA Secretary Mitch Roob. Today, he recognized the efforts of some of those same employees in helping uncover more than $1 million in fraud. From a press released issued by the Governor's office today:

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.

5 comments:

Doug said...

So is it the mere fact of a drug felony conviction that prevents one from receiving? Or is something more required?

Advance Indiana said...

If I understand it correctly, the fact of the felony drug conviction alone is a disqualifier.

Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how many of these individuals were processed through the Center Township Trustee's Office in Marion County.

Wilson46201 said...

The drug-conviction disqualifier is a federal or state disqualifier. The 1004 townships in Indiana set their own township-assistance ("poor relief") standards. The above anonymous snide comment against Center Township has no grounding in reality or law. Townships nowhere issue FSSA assistance...

Anonymous said...

What is it with the Guv always 'propping up' the IG's office?

Guess Mitchy understands that 'perception is reality' and that if he tells us over and over that the IG is a 'good guy' that we'll believe it. From what I hear, Thomas is a puppet and a tool for the Guv to use in his 'illusion' of ethics in government. Sorry boys, but chasing little rabbits and holding up your kill and proclaiming it to be 'big game' is a joke! You can (and have) fooled some of the people some of the time but you can't fool all the people all the time. We're catching on to you....