Sec. Aldona Wos

More whining from Wos on Legislative oversight

And more high-dollar outside contracts:

Davis and DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos told lawmakers they have hired a consultant to help streamline the agency and help make budget forecasts more reliable. "We've got here another single-bid $3 million contract," Tucker said, expressing frustration that a large agency with thousands of staffers could not have found workers to do such a review.

Wos said that DHHS' staff has shrunk and didn't have the ability to both handle day-to-day tasks as well as plan for the future. "This was an example of success. if this was able to be done by the employees of DHHS over the past 14 years, it would have done," Wos said. She added, "We would love to be at our desk working but we are here to provide you with the information you requested."

Shorter version: "It's not my fault, it's your fault." Apparently Republicans in the NCGA don't understand how job evaluations amongst the 1% really work: you fuck up, you move up, and the more money you lose in mismanaging your organization, the bigger your bonus and golden parachute. I shouldn't have to explain these things.

Even Republicans tiring of Wos' blithering double-speak

"If I didn't have to waste so much time thinking up lies to tell you, I might get something done."

Lawmakers publicly aired their frustrations with a string of problems at Wos' agency, from difficulty getting budget data to IT problems affecting Medicaid providers and patients alike, and said it could jeopardize their willingness to move forward with the governor's Medicaid reform initiative. Wos responded that her agency is being "micromanaged" by state lawmakers.

Asked to clarify, Wos said federal and state requirements for reporting are onerous, and lawmakers' additional requests for information are an extra burden.

"We beg – ask only what you need from us and not more. We have an incredible amount of reports that we have to present to you," Wos said. "Set your goals, set your expectations and allow us to get there," she told the panel, "allowing people to do what they need to based on their portfolios once you establish what you would like."

Errr...what? On second thought, don't even try to explain it, because that will just make things worse.

Pilfering the public purse: Joe Hauck's "actual work optional" contract

There's a New Breed of crony in town:

Joe Hauck was paid $310,000 in less than 11 months as a consultant to state Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos before returning in December to his job as an executive at a private company run by Wos' husband.

In response to public records requests filed in September by The Associated Press seeking all plans, proposals, documents, e-mails and any other work product authored by Hauck, the state agency has handed over a pair of memos totaling little more than three double-spaced pages.

The agency also provided spreadsheets detailing cuts made in state funding to such nonprofit charities as food banks and pre-Kindergarten programs that were reportedly developed at Hauck's direction.

Even if most of Hauck's contributions were verbal in nature, there would still be a paper trail (meeting announcements, minutes from such) providing a skeletal detail of work performed. And the inclusion of Food-Bank-cutting materials could simply be an effort to shift the blame for something (that should be) wildly unpopular. Whatever the case, the numbers don't add up to anything short of misappropriation of government funds.

Falling through the cracks in the food stamp fiasco

When gnawing hunger and bitter cold team up on you:

For days, she had been waiting on a monthly food stamp allotment that should have hit her account on Feb. 7. Every morning since, she called the number on the back of her Electronic Benefit Transfer card to check her balance. Now, with a crippling winter storm bearing down on the Triangle, those calls were getting more frantic.

That same morning, a few miles away, the head of the agency responsible for supervising the state's food stamp program was delivering good news to lawmakers.

As depressing as it might be, take the time to read the whole story. When commenting on politics, we often focus on numbers and statistics and such, but those things represent real people, with very real and often life-threatening situations. At the end of the day, they are why we must continue to fight against the regressive policies of the GOP.

Dinner-Party Wos hands out more golden tickets

The contracts just keep getting juicier:

The firm Alvarez & Marsal is best known for being tapped in 2008 to manage the bankruptcy of financial giant Lehman Brothers at a cost of nearly a half-billion dollars. Critics of the financial bailout said that bill was too high.

The contract calls for work to be done by eight people with salaries ranging from $242 to $473 per hour and an “intern” earning $84 per hour. One of the consultants, a “director,” is slated for 2,040 hours of work for total earnings over the year of $803,760.

Republicans love to crow about how government should be run like a business, but you know what? If any private-sector manager had made as many mistakes as Aldona Wos, who now apparently feels the need to bring in blue-chip consultants to untangle her mess, that manager would have been fired a long time ago. The word "inept" doesn't even cover it. And like dog poop on the carpet, that ineptitude is transferring to both McCrory and the NCGA, who are responsible for her continued employment.

More costly and deceptive incompetence from Aldona Wos

Several million more reasons to get rid of her:

The General Assembly had passed a law in July requiring legislative approval before the department asked the federal government for a significant change in Medicaid policy, known as a waiver.

Two weeks later, the department requested a waiver without informing the General Assembly as required by law, the News & Observer first reported Tuesday.

DHHS said the cost could be $2.8 million to state taxpayers. But Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, and a chief budget writer, expressed his concern that the department’s $2.8 million estimate could grow to as much as $45 million.

This one might be the straw that broke the Wos' back. Breaking the law is bad enough, but how many DHHS oversight hearings have they had since last Summer? 5? 7? How many times did Wos sit there with a complacent smile on her face without mentioning this? Friday news dump coming up...

The power of the purse: NC's food stamp backlog magically disappears

Whatever it takes to fix the problem:

Data released Friday by the state Department of Health and Human Services show the state needs to resolve 559 more cases to meet its Feb. 10 mandate. That's down about 96 percent from Jan. 23, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture told the state it could lose $88 million in administrative funding for the food stamp program if it didn't make significant progress toward clearing delayed cases.

"I am extremely proud of the work performed by our state and county workers to meet the federal deadlines," DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said in a press release Friday. "Our top priority continues to be getting these important benefits to eligible North Carolina families in a timely manner."

Her use of the word "continues" is nothing more than a lame attempt to protect herself from the overriding truth of this development: this problem could have been solved at any time during the last six months, but only the potential loss of millions in administrative funding provided the motivation to fix it. All those families struggling to put food on the table? Not important enough. And now this truth is obvious to everybody in the state.

Ham-handed Stam calls for volunteers to help DHHS

Training? Who needs training:

This is a WIN-WIN opportunity!! You will win by gaining first-hand experience with how the Food Nutrition System (FNS) operates and gain valuable experience processing claims.
The BIGGEST winners will be the many people who are waiting to get assistance. By helping them complete their applications, you will expedite them getting the necessary assistance they need to feed their families.

According to State Senator Earline Parmon (D-Dist32) who serves on the oversight committee for NCDHHS, “It is totally inappropriate for the legislative assistants to be asked to volunteer. There is the privacy issue. There is the fact that they have not received training to complete this work. To ask L.A.s to do the work for another department, that has already spent millions on over-time is ridiculous.”

There's also a shortage of OB-GYNs in NC: "Don't miss out on this GREAT opportunity! Get scrubbed and let's go DELIVER SOME BABIES! Everybody's a WINNER, and the first volunteer to get five notches on their baby belt will get to bang Tillis' big-ass gavel on the first day of the short session!"

Oh, SNAP: USDA destroys Aldone Wos' "Obamacare!" excuse

That's gonna leave a mark:

In the latest response in a months-long back and forth between the federal agency and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, USDA administrators say the state is still at risk of losing federal funding for the food stamps program. If the state doesn't fix the massive backlog of cases, that could happen as soon as mid-March.

The USDA also questioned the state's claim that implementation of the Affordable Care Act was to blame for many of the difficulties.

"It should be noted that many other States have implemented ACA without the dramatic impacts on SNAP that have occurred in North Carolina," USDA Regional Administrator Robin Bailey wrote to DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos Thursday.

My understanding is that only the administrative funding is at risk (subsidizing Wos' staff?), but not the money for the actual food stamps themselves. If she loses that funding, will the Legislature step up and pay for the administrative costs? If they don't, and delays get even worse, what's the next step? Has the USDA ever taken over a state's food stamp disbursement? Somehow I get the feeling the only people who will suffer from this are the same ones who usually suffer, the poor.

Great editorial on lack of transparency in DAG McCrory's administration

From my hometown paper, no less:

During both of his gubernatorial campaigns, Pat McCrory promised better transparency and said he would make it easier for the public to know what is going on in state government. Apparently he left out the disclaimer — “as long as they’re willing to pay for it.”

McCrory’s administration is setting a chilling precedent that could make it more difficult for average North Carolinians to get copies of public records that by law belong to the people. They’re your records, compiled and stored by people paid with your tax dollars. But McCrory and his top administrators have interpreted state law to mean they can charge exorbitant fees for fulfilling public records requests.

Just like everything else for sale in North Carolina's Republican-led government, information about the activities of this administration will cost you whatever the market can bear. That's what "running government like a business" is all about, and the only way to bring back sanity is to put the NC GOP back where it belongs, in the minority. Which brings us to the second (and more important) reason for putting up barriers to public records requests: to keep politically damaging facts from being exposed.

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