Legislative auditor: DHS didn’t have adequate internal controls, failed to follow key legal requirements

Monday, the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor released a report detailing several shortfalls in the state’s largest agency.

The report said an audit revealed the Minnesota Department of Human Services didn’t have adequate internal controls in place to ensure effective oversight and also failed to comply with several key legal requirements and state policies.

Among the more than a dozen issues found by the audit, the report says DHS didn’t ensure its employees had the proper skills, knowledge and job descriptions to manage grants, per state and federal law, and also failed to consistently get required documentation or approval for things like payments to grantees.

DHS Commissioner Jodi Harpstead, who took over in late 2019, issued the following statement after the report was released:

"After my first 90 days as commissioner, I said that some areas of DHS are soft around the edges and we need to work on crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. We’ve spent the past year working intensely on evaluating our processes and putting the pieces in place to start implementing changes. The auditor’s review found the same issues we’ve identified in our own evaluation of process controls in the department. The report makes us more confident that our plan moving forward is the right plan."

However, not all lawmakers are as confident that the department is headed in the right direction.

Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, the Republican Lead on the House Human Services Finance Committee, said, "Every time an audit comes out, DHS insists that the issues have been addressed, yet every time the OLA seems to uncover new problems. We need real reform and real accountability, not more excuses, slogans, and window dressing. I expect to hear from Commissioner Harpstead what steps specifically have been taken to hold those who failed to follow state law accountable."