The Minnesota Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing next week about potentially illegal contracts and spending practices across all state agencies.
Senate Republican leaders announced the hearing Wednesday after the Star Tribune reported that the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) had violated state law more than 200 times over the past year in its handling of contracts and grants.
In most cases, DHS staff allowed vendors to proceed with state work without contracts being finalized or signed.
The violations involved $52 million worth of services, although DHS officials said they had not paid out any money before the agreements had been finalized.
The committee has requested that the Minnesota Department of Administration, which oversees contracting, for copies of all similar violations reported across all state agencies.
Under state law, employees are required to fill out a form detailing the violation and an explanation of why it happened and how similar problems will be prevented.
DHS officials have made several visits to Senate committees this year to answer for missteps, some of which have stretched back years.
“We’ve heard about the fraud in child care assistance, we’ve seen the waste in overpayments to the tribes, and now we have abuse by agency staff spending money without approval and filing a ‘get out of jail free’ form each time,” Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Under the state contracting laws, violations would be “just cause” for dismissal if an employee “knowingly” broke the law. The statute provides for the governor to fire an employee if the agency fails to do so.
“It is the governor’s responsibility now,” Rosen said.
Speaking after a public event Wednesday, DFL Gov. Tim Walz said he encouraged the scrutiny by the finance committee.
He said that the violations at DHS were “unacceptable” and that he expects to make an announcement soon about having a third party evaluate the agency.
DHS officials said Tuesday that they review each reported violation and had not discovered any that involved fraud or collusion with outside organizations or individuals.