Gov. Patrick questions Mass. welfare auditAP , Associated Press
May. 31, 2013 12:54 PM ET
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — An audit that found welfare benefits had been paid to more than 1,100 people in Massachusetts who were dead was of "questionable accuracy," Gov. Deval Patrick said.
The governor, in an interview with WSHM-TV in Springfield, called on state Auditor Suzanne Bump to share all of the information gathered during the audit, which was released earlier this week and detailed millions of dollars in possible fraud. Among other things, auditors pointed to cases in which guardians continued to claim benefits in the name of deceased persons.
Patrick said it was "infuriating" that benefits would be paid to anyone who was not entitled to receive them.
"But the other thing is that this audit report is of questionable accuracy. We were given only 178 of the cases on which it relies, and nine out of ten of the conclusions were wrong in those cases," the governor said.
The comments echoed criticism made by Secretary of Health and Human Services John Polanowicz in a letter sent to Bump on Thursday.
Patrick asked for more information so the state's welfare agency could correct any fraudulent payments. But, he added: "It's quite clear also from the audit that 99.99 percent of the money that the public spends in public benefits goes exactly where it's supposed to go and to whom it's exactly supposed to go."
Bump, a Democrat who served in Patrick's Cabinet as secretary of labor before being elected auditor, said the findings reflected the circumstances at the time of the audit, which covered a 2 ½-year period ending in December 2012.
Auditors reached their conclusions by matching data from the state Department of Transitional Assistance with data from the Social Security Administration, Bump told the Republican newspaper of Springfield during a stop in the city on Thursday.
"It represents a snapshot in time and it was months ago," she said. "So I would expect that by now, some of these names would be purged from the system or errors corrected, so I would expect a different number."
Bump said in an earlier statement that the recommendations accompanying the audit will strengthen the integrity of public benefit programs.
Patrick also appeared willing to consider a proposal to require photo IDs on Electronic Benefit Transfer cards that are given to welfare recipients. The House included in its version of the proposed state budget a provision requiring that the cards include photo IDs in the future to help guard against fraud, and Senate leaders may add a similar measure to a welfare reform proposal expected to be filed in the coming weeks.