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DHS problems evident; restructure needed

The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) has, over the years, evolved into a big beast. This makes it difficult to handle, as recent news indicates.

The Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported last week that the department violated state law more than 200 times over the past year, awarding $52 million in contracts and grant commitments without proper documentation.

The misuse of taxpayer dollars is apparent, and the supposed safeguards meant to curtail such situations are not working.

According to the report, agency employees sometimes allowed vendors and grant recipients to proceed with their work before the money to pay for their services before contracts and agreements had been finalized and signed.

Other recent news indicated the department made $29 million in overpayments to two American Indian tribes for opioid treatment programs.

Where is the accountability?

Human Services is meant to be just that, an agency dedicated to helping people who need it. But its sheer size is problematic, to say the least. Mismanagement adds to the woes.

One cannot help but wonder what state taxpayers are thinking. Some already find some aspects of the department objectionable, in that it is in the business of giving out “handouts.” How much worse is it if the department cannot conduct its basic functions without following the rules meant to prevent misuse and waste of funds?

Gov. Tim Walz, especially, and state lawmakers need to get to the bottom of the agency’s issues and do whatever is needed to clean up the mess.

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