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Internal audit shows soft process controls in grant programs

Minnesota Human Services commissioner pledges improvements

1/21/2020 2:43:28 PM

A report by the Minnesota Department of Human Services Internal Audits Office showed soft oversight of grant contracts for chemical dependency and mental health services, but no misspending of funds. 

In the spring of 2019, news broke about overpayments back to 2014 to tribal nations for addiction treatment and news resurfaced about previous overpayments to counties for substance abuse treatment at mental health treatment facilities. During the resulting events, the Internal Audits Office received complaints from a number of Behavioral Health Division employees describing soft controls in the division.  

The Internal Audits Office has been carefully and systematically examining each complaint and has just completed a full report. Of the nine major complaints, five were substantiated and four were not. Commissioner Jodi Harpstead, who took over leadership of the agency in September, released the report today

“As I said in my 90-Day Report, I am grateful to every employee, manager, and auditor that brought issues to light for us this year,” Harpstead said.  “Each reported issue is a trail marker pointing to the controls that will prevent problems in the future.  These are exactly the examples we needed to set us on a path towards doing a better job and re-establishing trust with the people of Minnesota.”

Contract concerns in the Behavioral Health Division are among several issues that prompted DHS to review agency operations. Harpstead said DHS has already taken a number of steps to strengthen internal controls, including clearer approvals for Medicaid expenditures and tighter processes around contract approvals. In addition to self-initiating this internal audit, the department recently hired an outside consultant to provide national benchmarking and recommendations for best practices, with a final report expected in early spring.

This area of the department also has new leadership. Gertrude Matemba-Mutasa, an experienced non-profit leader, started as assistant commissioner earlier this month.

“Job one will be to implement the recommendations of this report,” Harpstead said. “We will make sure we have the right policies and procedures in place and that all staff have the training and tools they need to do their jobs well. We continue to encourage reports of problems at the Minnesota Department of Human Services.”

The report also identified issues around policies and practice related to conflict of interest and referred them to the department’s Human Resources office for review. Human Resources will investigate and take action where appropriate.

The Behavioral Health Division develops and implements state policy for mental health and substance use disorder treatment services. In State Fiscal Year 2019 it funded approximately $354 million in services, mostly using state funds.

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