GOP lawmakers fault Walz for state agency contract violations

Jodi Harpstead
Gov. Tim Walz announces on Aug. 12, 2019, that Jodi Harpstead would become the new Commissioner of the Department of Human Services. State agencies, including DHS, have violated contract laws more than 1,000 times in the past year and lawmakers say Gov. Walz needs to get a better handle on accounting practices.
Briana Bierschbach | MPR News file

Gov. Tim Walz's administration came under fire Wednesday for violations of state contract laws.

Republican senators held a hearing about the violations, which occurred when vendors working with the state started work before contracts were signed and when employees committed to spending state money without agency permission.

Records from the administration show these violations happened roughly 1,300 times over the last year.

Despite the violations, no taxpayer money was misspent, said Human Services Department Chief Financial Officer Alexandra Kotze.

"No payments were made on these contracts, and no payments were made on any of the executed things until the forms were signed and until all of the contracts were executed," Kotze said. “These violations did not comply with proper policies and procedures, and I'm going to continue to review and work on that in the future."

Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, said she was surprised to see how many agencies had violations.

"I thought this was just the Department of Human Services, but evidently it's the Department of Employment and Economic Development as well, which means the governor needs to start paying attention to not just DHS but DEED as well, evidently, administration."

The violations represent a small fraction of all contracts the state handles.

Republicans have pledged to dig into the issue more during the legislative session, which begins in February.

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