House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. on Thursday renewed a Republican proposal for an independent anti-fraud office within state government.
Cafero made his claim a week after state auditors reported that while the state Department of Social Services terminated three employees for fraud, agency officials neglected to notify the audit office in a timely manner as required under state law.
Reporting to auditors was tardy, the DSS admitted Thursday.
Spokesmen for the DSS and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said that the fraud, which resulted in two arrests and guilty pleas, was detected and properly reported to the Chief State's Attorney, which successfully prosecuted the employees.
Two of the employees were caught for misuse of agency resources in the fall of 2010, before Malloy took office and resigned. The third case, involving a February 2012 incident, led to an August 2012 termination, and the case has been referred for possible criminal charges.
Edwards and Handly were arrested and pleaded guilty to third-degree and first-degree larceny, respectively.
David Dearborn, spokesman for the DSS, said Thursday that the agency "took strong action to protect taxpayer dollars" and fired the three workers after the irregularities were confirmed.
"Last week, state auditors pointed out that DSS should have reported the incidents to their office, too," Dearborn said. "We will certainly make sure that happens in any future situation."
Andrew Doba, Malloy's spokesman, noted that Maties' case has been referred to the Chief State's Attorney.
"This administration has zero tolerance for the abuse of public funds, as evidenced by the actions taken as soon as the wrongdoing was discovered by DSS," Doba said.
Cafero said the auditors pointed out a systemic problem with addressing corrupt state workers.
"These instances undermine the public's confidence and further the notion that welfare fraud is not taken seriously by state government," Cafero, R-Norwalk, said in a statement.
Cafero said that if there was an anti-fraud office, it could have quickly investigated the fraud in DSS, which has a $5-billion annual budget.
"This disturbing pattern of lax oversight and the repeated failures of DSS to manage the distribution of funds, is troublesome," Cafero said. "We saw this on a massive scale in 2011 in the wholesale disbursement of the emergency food relief funds and now we have seen it again with DSS failing to inform the auditors of alleged illegal activity on the part of agency workers.''
In 2011, more than 100 state employees from a variety of agencies, including DSS workers and State Police personnel, were fired after allegedly falsifying income information to gain food stamp benefits in a wide-ranging fraud following the multi-day power outages after Tropical Storm Irene.
Most regained their jobs after arbitration hearings.
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