November 25, 2014
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Chafee releases fraud study following pressure from legislators
Jennifer Rodrigues

After pressure from legislators on both sides of the aisle, Governor Lincoln Chafee released portions of the Simpatico study yesterday.

The study, which was completed by Ken Block, president of Simpatico Software Systems and a former Moderate Party candidate for governor, was an attempt to uncover instances of waste, fraud, abuse or process failure; in the agreement, Block was required to sign a confidentiality agreement.

Prior to yesterday, Chafee acknowledged the results, but not released specifics. Now the report has been released, but sensitive information is blacked out.

In a press release from the governor’s office, Chafee said, “The Simpatico study, which has generated so much media attention, was a recent step in this ongoing process. It has been helpful in providing my administration with further direction on which areas to pursue, but in reality it is one small piece of what we have been doing for years and will continue to do.”

The 16-page report reveals that Simpatico discovered instances of fraud and waste in Food Stamp (EBT), Medicaid and Providence Housing Authority (PHA) programs.

Specifically, the study found that 800 out of 2,000 PHA Section 8 beneficiaries were under-reporting or not reporting their Food Stamp benefit, causing an estimated $1.7 million in fraud. The study also details various types of fraud committed by both EBT retailers and beneficiaries, including the use of food stamps by inmates or the deceased.

Prior to yesterday’s announcement, House Minority Whip Joseph A. Trillo criticized Chafee’s decision to keep the report for internal use only.

“Accountability and transparency are supposed to be the watch words of a good government, even if full openness uncovers some blemishes,” said Trillo in a press release from Tuesday.

The Republican representative was not the only legislator asking for transparency.

“Speaker Fox has spoken to the governor and asked him to release the document,” said Larry Berman, spokesperson for the Speaker of the House, yesterday morning. “But it is ultimately [the governor’s] prerogative.”

Chafee said his reason for keeping the report confidential was maintaining the ongoing work of Block, the Office of Health and Human Services and the Department of Human Services.

“I remain committed to transparency and if, at the appropriate time, a determination is made that publicly releasing the information will not jeopardize our ability to root out fraud and abuse, I will certainly do so,” said Chafee in an online statement from Monday.

Trillo felt keeping the report confidential was only harming public faith in government.

“The citizens have a right to know what is going on and what government is going to do about making it right,” said Trillo.

“If he feels he cannot, for whatever misguided reason, put the full report before the public, he should at the very least release the amount of money – taxpayers’ dollars – that is involved in the alleged fraud and mismanagement.”

In addition to releasing the report, Chafee announced a package of four bills that address his goal to minimize waste, fraud and abuse throughout the state.

The package includes the following legislation: the creation of a Program Integrity Division in the Office of Health and Human Services, the requirement of the Office of Management and Budget and OHHS to map out any processes regarding enrollment and funding of Medicaid and public assistance programs, the prohibiting of the use of EBT cards at liquor stores, gambling facilities and other locations, and the sharing of information between state agencies.

Bill summaries and the Simpatico study can be found at www.

governor.ri.gov/stopfraud.


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