Newly-appointed Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Commissioner Tony Lourey is facing pressure from Republican legislators over the department’s failure to respond to several data requests seeking information on the state’s alleged child care fraud.
The fraud was first exposed in a May 2018 Fox 9 report, and has been a subject of concern for Minnesota Republicans ever since.
Investigative reporters found that up to $100 million in suitcases had left MSP bound for the Middle East. Experts suspected that some of the money was being transferred through Hawalas, the unofficial banking systems of some third-world countries, which are generally compelled to hand over a share of the profits to Al-Shabab.
The story resulted in a shock allegation from Republicans: Minnesota taxpayers, through widespread fraud in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program, are funding foreign terrorists.
The fraud scheme, according to Fox 9, generally included daycare centers across the state registering low-income families for their services so they could bill the state for a full day of care. In many cases, however, the children would never show up, while families in on the scam would receive shares of the profit.
Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria) and former Rep. Matt Dean (R-Ely) have made four data requests with DHS over the last eight months, requesting department communications “that refer to terrorism, internal reviews of the Minnesota Family Investment Program Child Care Assistance Program produced in the wake of Fox 9 reports of fraud, and data and reports produced by an external organization (PFM Group) hired by DHS to investigate OIG’s [Office of Inspector General] own fraud investigators.”
The DHS hasn’t responded to any of the requests, according to a letter sent by Franson to Lourey Thursday.
“We are particularly concerned that DHS has willfully and unnecessarily withheld from the legislature data created by PFM group, for the purpose of later releasing it to rebut and discredit the OLA’s Special Review,” Franson writes in her letter.
“In each of the attached cases we have provided DHS with a reasonable deadline for providing the data. In each case we’ve also asked the department to contact us if this data cannot be supplied in the specified time period. And in each case the deadline has passed and we remain without the requested access, nor any timeline for the data’s delivery,” Franson continues.
She concludes by calling on the DHS to hand over the requested data by January 30, and, if it is unable to do so, to “provide us with an itemized timeline for delivery of data requested.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Tony Lourey” by Tony Lourey. Photo “Mary Franson” by Mary Franson. Background Photo “Minnesota Capital Chambers” by Cliff. CC BY 2.0.