The head of the agency in charge of Wisconsin Shares is defending efforts to root out corruption in the program.
Department of Children and Families Secretary Reggie Bicha went before the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday to address recent scandals surrounding Wisconsin Shares, a state childcare subsidy program.
Bicha says the agency is committed to stopping the fraud currently plaguing the system, which includes providers falsifying records to obtain additional payments from the state. The Secretary says the agency was created nearly a year ago to fix problems exactly like this, and it is an ongoing process.
Recent reports have shown providers collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments they didn’t deserve. Bicha says they are already taking broad action to go after those who have cheated the system. The Department is currently suspending payments to providers when there is reasonable suspicion they are violating the requirements of the program.
Lawmakers spent nearly two hours questioning the Secretary about current efforts and why it took so long to uncover the corrupt behavior. State Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) says the state has been played for fools by people who have been able to take advantage of the system.
Bicha says the greatest focus will be on rooting out corruption in Milwaukee County, where it’s estimated 95-percent of fraudulent cases take place. He says, if those efforts fail, it could cause the entire program to crumble. The agency is taking over child care administration in Milwaukee County after the first of the year.