• Gov. Patrick disputes welfare audit numbers, agrees with possible criminal charges


    BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com) -- Gov. Deval Patrick is calling a state audit that references more than 1,000 cases in which dead people were given welfare benefits 'infuriating.'

    The governor spoke to FOX 25's Sharman Sacchetti in Springfield, Mass. Thursday shortly after Department of Transitional Assistance officials called into question many of the details included in the audit.

    "It's infuriating on two levels," Gov. Patrick explained. "One, because any one instance of somebody who shouldn't be getting benefits, getting them is just that, infuriating.  It's also infuriating that the accuracy of the report seems to be in question. They've given us 178 of the apparently nearly 1,200 cases and all, but 17 were perfectly appropriate so there's some questions that have to be answered there as well."

    When Sacchetti asked the governor whether or not he should have spoken about the audit earlier in the week, he responded, "What are you talking about?"

    The governor then said, "I have a whole team to speak on this issue and more to the point we're fixing the issue to the extent there is one."

    The governor also spoke about the potential for criminal charges being filed as a result of the audit.

    "I think if there is somebody who has broken the law that every consequence should be brought to bear," said the governor.

    In a letter to State Auditor Suzanne Bump released Thursday, the DTA requests "full information" used to create the audit. They claim that they have only received information about 178 of the 1,164 cases that the audit claims involved people using a deceased person's Social Security number to access benefits.

    The letter, which is signed by Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services John W. Polanowicz, goes on to claim of the 178 cases they received, 13 were duplicate entries and 54 were already closed. Polanowicz also claims 79 cases involved people who were not deceased.

    Polanowicz claims the DTA has taken action in 32 of the cases, 17 of which involved guardians receiving benefits on behalf of deceased people.

    The DTA plans to conduct a complete review once they receive information on the 1,164 cases.

    Polanowicz further claims that allegations of $662,000 in benefits being handed down to people receiving benefits under two different Social Security numbers are false.

    "Auditors provided 26 cases to review where it appeared one person was receiving benefits under two separate Social Security Numbers. After our review, we found that 18 of those cases were actually two individuals living at the same home with the same name," Polanowicz explained.

    The letter says of the remaining eight cases, two are being investigators as potential fraud.

    Polanowicz also responded to claims that EBT cards weren't located in secure locations. He says more than half of the cards were located in the Worcester Transitional Assistance Office, which suffered a flood in July 2012 and forced the office to "temporarily change storage and security for EBT card inventory." Polanowicz says the EBT cards were kept in a safe and that the office "abided by proper security protocols with regards to active records."

    The secretary ends the letter by thanking Bump for her commitment to program integrity both at the DTA and statewide.

    "We share your goals of addressing fraud and abuse, and we will take swift action to recoup any improperly obtained funds to taxpayers," said Polanowicz.

    Bump responded to Polanowicz's letter in a statement Thursday.

    "Secretary Polanowicz and I share the same goal: to ensure public assistance programs are run with integrity," says Bump. "The recommendations of this audit, which have been adopted by DTA, will do this. A sharing and thorough testing of data is always a component of an audit. If there are ways that we can mutually advance this goal, we look forward to this effort."

    To read the letter, click here.

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