ST. PAUL, MN – On Wednesday, January 23, Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) submitted a data practices request, for data regarding fraud in Minnesota’s Childcare Assistance Program (CCAP), to new Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Tony Lourey. The request concerns the allegations of upwards of $100 million of CCAP funds – which are administered by DHS – being allocated to fraudulent childcare facilities and possibly going overseas to terrorist groups.
Over the last eight months, Rep. Franson and former Rep. Matt Dean have submitted to DHS four data requests seeking information surrounding the alleged fraud of CCAP funds. DHS has failed to fulfill any of the four previous requests. Franson submitted Wednesday’s request in hopes of receiving responses to the previous requests, and is publicly calling on the agency to release internal communications and a private investigative firm's report—prepared at taxpayer expense—that could shed light on the scope of fraud within the CCAP program and efforts by the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to combat it.
In October, DHS hired private investigative firm PFM Group to conduct an investigation of OIG’s own fraud investigators, who were investigating the allegations of fraud within DHS. Rep. Franson’s December 17 data request seeks the information from PFM Group’s report.
“Four data requests later and nothing but silence and unresponsiveness from DHS. This raises the question: what are they hiding?” said Rep. Franson. “Any fraud in our public programs is unacceptable, but when the fraud nears $100 million – with funds possibly ending up in the hands of terrorists – all relevant information must be made available to the legislature and the public. As the governor and legislature work to create the state budget for the next two years, it is absolutely imperative that we know the scope of fraud happening within CCAP and our state agencies.”
Among the data sought in the four requests are intra-Department communications referencing terrorism; internal reviews of CCAP produced following the initial reports of fraud; and data and reports produced by the external organization hired by DHS to investigate OIG employees.
“I am hopeful that Commissioner Lourey will prioritize this request and can quickly provide us with information and answers to our inquiries. Every dollar of fraud is a dollar that can’t be used by those who need it, so it is crucial that we put an end to it as soon as possible. In the weeks ahead, I intend to introduce legislation to crack down on this fraud, prevent it in the future, and ensure childcare assistance funds are going to those who truly need it – not fraudsters,” concluded Rep. Franson.
The nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor is expected to issue its highly anticipated report on the fraud sometime next month.