MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Jodi Harpstead, the new head of the Department of Human Services, apologized to taxpayers Monday for more than $100 million in spending mistakes — but Republican lawmakers doubt whether she can prevent that from happening again.
Republican Representative Barb Haley of Red Wing even said the new commissioner should act like Gopher football head coach P.J. Fleck, who accepted full responsibility this weekend for the team’s crushing loss to Wisconsin.
“I am looking for that P.J. Fleck moment where somebody says the buck stops with me,” Rep. Haley said.
Commissioner Harpstead then obliged.
“Let me say it now, the buck stops right here,” Harpstead said.
She delivered her report on her first 90 days in office to a House committee. She says she is putting in place procedures and personnel to make sure $106 million in mistaken billing doesn’t happen again.
“We are planning to use the best processes that we know that have been proven in other organizations to tackle these issues,” Harpstead said.
But the commissioner’s surprise revelation that a complaint against the department’s former inspector general had been dismissed did not sit well with Republicans.
“For us to hear that during this committee hearing was shocking,” said Republican Rep. Anne Neu of North Branch.
Carolyn Ham was in charge of preventing fraud in a federally-subsidized daycare program. An audit found pervasive fraud in the program.
Commissioner Harpstead was repeatedly asked to give assurance that the DHS can be trusted again. Her answer was the same each time: That level of trust can only be earned over an extensive period of time.