Senator proposes stripping DSHS of fraud-fighting power



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Posted on January 19, 2011 at 10:41 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jan 19 at 11:13 PM

SEATTLE - A KING 5 Investigation into welfare recipients using state debit cards to draw money at casinos has prompted a state senator to draft a law which would strip the Department of Social and Health Services from investigating fraud, waste and abuse on its own.

“The fox is watching the chicken house,” said State Senator Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood.  “They have stopped focusing on fraud and abuse."

Senator Carrell says he studied how well the agency is doing at rooting out waste on its own. He is afraid drastic cuts in the budget has hamstrung DSHS investigations.
The senator is proposing that fraud investigations be taken away from DSHS and turned over to a super fraud squad to be created in the State Auditor's Office. He is introducing the Public Assistance Fraud Bill.

“I understand their focus is on helping people. But at the same time we have to make sure that taxpayer money is not being wasted, and misapplied to people who don't deserve it," said Carrell.

State Auditor Brian Sontag says he would welcome the move.

“I think it can become a model for this state for some other agencies. I think other states can even look at this," said Sontag.

DSHS did disable those cards form working at casino ATMs. Still, Senator Carrell says there is no money to waste, and he's not gambling on the agency's ability to police itself.

Thursday, he will ask his fellow lawmakers to turn DSHS fraud investigations over to the state auditor and, from there, to the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute cheats.