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Boston — Good afternoon Chairman Brownsberger, Chairman Fernandes and members of the Committee. Thank you for this opportunity to testify on behalf of House Bill 5, An Act Facilitating the Legislative Mandate of the Bureau of Special Investigations.
I filed this bill and advocate for it before you today because this bill will help stop abuse of the Commonwealth’s public benefit programs.
As you know, the Bureau of Special Investigations (BSI), within the Office of the State Auditor, works to protect public assistance programs from fraud and recover taxpayer dollars from those who choose to cheat the system, thereby maximizing resources for those citizens truly in need of these benefits and services. BSI is the Commonwealth’s principle investigative body into public benefit fraud. BSI investigates cases dealing with MassHealth, food stamps, child care programs, and cash assistance.
Year over year BSI is uncovering more fraud because we are getting smarter and faster in our methods. For every dollar the state invests in our work, we create the potential for more than four dollars to be returned to the Commonwealth. In Fiscal Year 2014, BSI identified more than $9.5 million in fraudulently obtained public assistance benefits and services. This total represents a nearly 50 percent increase over the previous year’s record of $6.3 million and is the fourth straight year of record-breaking casework. In the past four years BSI has identified more than $25 million in fraud.
Our work fosters public trust in these important programs because our results demonstrate that fraud will not be tolerated.
House Bill 5 will help continue this trend of success by providing our fraud examiners with the legal tools necessary to conduct thorough investigations.
Under its enabling statute, BSI fraud examiners may make a written request of a vendor of the Commonwealth, an employer, a bank, or a school for records relevant to an investigation, and it requires that entity to comply with the request within a reasonable period of time. BSI, however, has no mechanism to enforce that requirement. As a result, BSI investigations are often hampered by the refusal or failure of banks, hospitals, universities, and other entities to provide requested information.
Most private and public entities require an administrative subpoena, not just a written request, before releasing documents in order to protect themselves legally. Other law enforcement and investigative entities, such as the Attorney General and the Inspector General, are authorized to issue subpoenas and complete their investigations. In fact, there is a significant number of public entities, who are outside the law enforcement and investigative world, that have the authority to issue subpoenas, such as the Division of Professional Licensure, the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions, the Commissioner of Food and Agriculture, the Office of the Child Advocate, local retirement boards, and any agency that holds adjudicatory proceedings.
Providing BSI with this useful tool will greatly facilitate our work. It will enable us to complete more cases in a timely manner and may well lead to increased findings of fraud.
The motto I have set for my office is “Making Government Work Better.” It is a motto that just as much applies to this Committee. Today I ask you to consider House 5 not just as an opportunity to allow my office to work better, but as an opportunity to help preserve the social safety net for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable individuals and families.
Thank you for this opportunity to provide testimony on this important piece of legislation. Please let me know if my staff or I can answer any of your questions.