MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Department of Human Services is under fire again.

This time, it’s for giving $29 million in overpayments to Minnesota native tribes for opioid treatments.

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A devastating report by the legislative auditor cites “inexcusable dysfunction” at the state agency, and it paints a troubling portrait where no one would accept responsibility for authorizing the mistaken payments.

Minnesota taxpayers are likely on the hook to repay the overpayments back to the federal government. The monies in question are federal dollars allocated to the states to pay for opioid abuse.

The 36-page legislative auditors report says for years the state Department of Human Services paid the Leech Lake Band of Objibwe and the White Earth Nation for in-person physician treatment for medications that patients were taking at home. The legislative auditor acknowledges how damming his report is.

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles says the agency doesn’t know where to place the blame.

“I mean, it’s astounding that you can make a decision like this to spend millions of dollars and you don’t know who made the decision,” Nobles said.

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The state says the tribes should pay the money back to the state so the state can repay the federal government. The report states the overpayments are entirely the fault of the state, not the tribes.

“We believe it vindicates our position from the beginning that we are not at fault,” attorney for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Lenny Fineday said.

Commissioner of Human Services Jodi Harpstead says she is working to address the issue of who will repay the money, but added the tribes are not to blame.

“I apologize to the White Earth Nation and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe for the misinformation that has led to the current situation and I hope the Minnesota legislature will work for us to finding a solution,” Harpstead said.

There will be many additional hearings focusing on this report and its findings. It’s all playing out against the larger backdrop of what to do with the DHS, as this is just one of several major problems among major personnel shakeups throughout the year.

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Another hearing on this report is scheduled before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday.

Esme Murphy