On Tuesday September 29, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Secretary, Reggie Bicha, appeared before the Joint Finance Committee to discuss fraud within the Wisconsin Shares child-care subsidy program. Before fielding questions from legislators, Secretary Bicha discussed the steps his department has taken, and will be taking, to stop and prevent fraud. Read his testimony here. Despite criticism, the department indicates it has made great strides in stopping fraud since it was created 14 months ago. Here’s just a glimpse of what is currently being done:
-DCF has revoked more than 100 child care licenses in the past year. This number is more than double last year’s number.
-Because of recent legislative changes supported by DCF, they can now suspend Shares payments to any provider that they reasonably suspect is committing fraud. In the two weeks that DCF has had this ability, 69 providers have had their Shares payments suspended. See the complete list, and updated suspensions, here.
-DCF has hired a 5 person Fraud Detection and Investigation Unit to focus statewide on fraud.
-DCF has contracted with a private investigation firm-one that specializes in public assistance fraud.
-A Shares fraud hotline has been created (1.877.302.FRAUD). You can also report suspected fraud online, via email, or through the mail.
-DCF has created a system that detects suspicious behavior that could indicate fraud by providers.
-The department is working with legislators to create and pass laws that prevent fraud and hold providers accountable for their actions.
While investigating, DCF has found that 95% of suspected fraud cases are in Milwaukee County and that Milwaukee County officials did not spend all of the money allocated to them to run the Shares program. Many have argued that this money could have been used for more fraud oversight and investigations (Read Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s response here). Therefore, in addition to the efforts listed above, several efforts will be focused only on Milwaukee County. The State will be taking over Milwaukee County’s child care administration and program integrity efforts beginning January 1, 2010. The Child Care Anti-Fraud task force- composed of partners like the DCF, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, the Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Milwaukee Police Department, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. attorney’s office- will start their efforts in Milwaukee County (read more here). DCF is also adding ten new licensors to the Southern Region, who will have smaller case loads and will focus on monitoring providers with licensing violations.
For WECA’s response to fraud in the Wisconsin Shares program, read our op-ed here. We want to know what your response is as well. Leave a comment below to share your opinion.