ST. PAUL (KMHL) – Department of Human Services Commissioner Jodi Harpstead told lawmakers during a Senate hearing yesterday that DHS can’t be seen as untrustworthy in the eyes of the public following gaps in oversight that led to the overpayment to two Native American tribes of $29 million over several years.

“The guidance that was given to tribal governments was wrong,” said Harpstead. “It’s impossible for us to serve Minnesotans in a trustworthy way if they believe their interactions with DHS could leave them on the hook for millions of dollars.”

Harpstead, who took over the position 58 days ago, yesterday rolled out what she called “Operation Swiss Watch” in the department. She said the goal of the operation is to operate with the precision and consistency of a Swiss Watch.

“To come together to get to the root cause of the tribal MAT overpayment issue and each of the issues we have uncovered and disclosed in 2019,” said Harpstead. “To map how decisions are made and by whom and to propose a tighter, well-controlled, documented process for moving forward that accomplishes the accountability the department needs to be trustworthy.”

Harpstead also asked lawmakers to consider making changes in law that would not force them to go after repayment from the tribes for the DHS mistake – but said as law is currently set up, they will need to try and receive repayment from the tribes.