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Walz plan would increase grants oversight in wake of food program fraud – InForum

st. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday plans to increase scrutiny of state agency-administered subsidies following the $250 million children’s food program scandal.

Waltz’s office said in a news release, “Recent fraud involving federal funds both in Minnesota and nationally highlights the need for new protections,” adding that a recent review by a state agency “reported surveillance and Opportunities to strengthen accountability” were discovered.

“I am committed to rooting out and stopping fraud,” Waltz said. “Taxpayer funds need to be protected. This plan will ensure that the state government works as efficiently and effectively as possible to improve the lives of Minnesota people while keeping fraudsters out. It helps us create new tools to catch and hold them accountable.”

One component of the plan was to create an Inspector General for the Minnesota Department of Education and to place contract workers in other agencies.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz

The education department oversees two food programs that federal prosecutors say more than $250 million was swindled out of during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 50 people have been criminally charged.

Waltz also wants to work with Congress to:

  • Expand the Office of Administration’s Grants Management Office and create a “roadmap” for the statewide grants management system.
  • Add auditing capabilities within the control and budget office.When
  • Establish a coordinated approach to tracking and investigating grant fraud through the Office of Criminal Arrest.

Minnesota Board of Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Swalter said in a news release that Waltz’s plan is a “simpler, less variable approach to granting grants and monitoring how funds are spent. ‘, he said.

Additionally, Waltz said he would advocate changes to how the federal government operates to reduce opportunities for fraud. These changes include clarifying when and how state agencies should withhold payments from grantees suspected of fraud.

In late 2020, the Minnesota Department of Education reported to the U.S. Department of Agriculture about incredibly high reimbursement claims for children’s food programs.

But the education department didn’t stop paying Feeding Our Future, the state’s largest food program sponsor, until March 2021. And less than a month after a state judge presided over a lawsuit filed by Feeding Our Future, the education sector resumed payments. Federal regulations don’t appear to allow states to shut them down, he warned.

After criminal charges were filed against the Feeding Our Future founder and dozens of people who received payments from the food program, Walz publicly criticized the judge. Waltz now seems to acknowledge that federal regulation played a role in perpetuating the fraud.

“The federal government should clearly define a process for withholding payments from grantees who do not comply with grant requirements and develop a one-stop option for reporting fraud,” said Walz. the office said.

Waltz, who will announce the biennial budget next month, did not disclose how much the anti-fraud program will cost. But lawmakers believe they are open to discussion.

His DFL party holds majorities in both the House and Senate. Meanwhile, Republican leaders have been calling for stronger protections against fraud for months following the food program scandal.

Cold Spring House Leader Lisa Demuth said last month that the DFL “finally has to take fraud seriously after years of ignoring the issue in one form or another. , is just the latest glaring example of how to better protect Minnesotans’ taxes.”

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