State social services officials failed to notify auditors promptly of benefits fraud

State Department of Social Services officials notified law enforcement officials in timely fashion — but not the state auditors — while investigating three incidents of suspected benefits fraud between 2010 and early 2012, the auditors reported Thursday.

In a letter to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Auditors John C. Geragosian and Robert M. Ward wrote that “all state department heads shall promptly notify the auditors of public accounts and the comptroller of any unauthorized, illegal, irregular or unsafe handling of state funds.”

During an audit of the department begun last spring, the auditors first learned of three separate occasions during which “DSS employees allegedly engaged in unauthorized behavior that allowed each of the employees to improperly obtain funds from the state of Connecticut for personal gain.”

According to the auditors’ office, those incidents involved improper approval of nutrition assistance, state welfare benefits, or both. The department already had notified the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney, the auditors noted, and restitution ordered in all three cases totaled about $70,000.

But Geragosian and Ward wrote that two of the incidents occurred in 2010 and the third in 2012, yet their office didn’t learn of this until it began an audit in March 2013.

DSS Commissioner Roderick Bremby “assures us he is taking corrective action,” Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba said Thursday.

“While the agency did report these incidents to the state auditors, we need to make sure we do so according to the time frames in the statute going forward,” read a department statement issued Thursday. It also noted that two of the three fraud incidents occurred before Bremby’s tenure began in 2011.