Capital Clicks

Auditor: DHS should improve board oversight and public-assistance spending

By: - January 19, 2021 4:47 pm

The U.S. House voted Aug. 24, 2021, to approve a $3.5 trillion budget resolution. (Photo by Getty Images)

The Iowa Department of Human Services should take corrective action in its oversight of state boards and its handling of public funds, the Iowa Auditor of State has concluded.

In a report issued Tuesday, state auditors said they examined public-assistance payouts made to Iowans as part of the Family Investment Program. According to auditors, DHS policy indicates that Iowans who collect money though the FIP program cannot collect, at the same time, a grant from any other public-assistance program administered by DHS, including payments for foster care and subsidized adoption. Federal regulations impose similar restrictions on the use of those same funds.

However, auditors said, DHS allows some Iowans to receive FIP assistance as well as foster care or adoption assistance for the month a child is removed from the home to enter foster care, or for the month the child’s family begins receiving subsidized adoption payments.

In response to that finding, DHS officials said payment errors of that type involving subsidized adoption have declined steadily, from 24% in 2016 to 6.5% in 2019.

Auditors also noted that Iowa law states that any person appointed by the governor to any board will be considered to have resigned if they attend fewer than one-half of the regular board meetings over the course of a year.

One unspecified member of the department’s Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa (Hawki) board, who was appointed by the governor did not attend five of eight meetings held during fiscal year 2019, auditors noted. In response, DHS officials said that individual has now been removed from the board.

Auditors also found that DHS was in violation of the Iowa law requiring the agency to establish training programs designed to assist all court-appointed guardians and conservators in understanding their fiduciary duties and in understanding how to best serve their wards’ interests. The department had not established such a training program, auditors said. In response, the department said it has created a handbook that is available on the agency’s website. Auditors accepted that response.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.