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DHS due for major overhaul

The Department of Human Services is Minnesota’s largest and most convoluted state agency. The results of a legislative auditor’s office investigation, released Tuesday, indicate is is also due for a major overhaul, top to bottom.

The investigation found “troubling dysfunction” at DHS that resulted in $29 million in overpayments over the years of federal money to two tribes for opioid treatment payments. The state may need to refund the money to the federal government. It may not be able to recover it from the tribes themselves.

“The department did not have legal authority to make the payments; it did not document why, when, and who decided it was appropriate to make the payments; no one at DHS takes responsibility for the decision; and no one at DHS can provide a rationale for the payments,” the special review said.

DHS has been under scrutiny since several top officials resigned last summer, including the commissioner Gov. Tim Walz had appointed just six months before.

It’s obvious the problems at DHS have been around longer than last summer. It needs a lot of work. It may need to be split up into more managable chunks. It will definitely need clearer policies and procedures, and clear-cut lines of command with managers who know what they are doing and are willing to take responsibility for what they do.

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