New Sheriff Arrives at Troubled Health Agency

The new chief watchdog for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission told lawmakers Monday he plans to right the embattled department by going after fraud and waste outside and inside the $37 billion state social services empire.

The new chief watchdog for the embattled Texas Health and Human Services Commission told lawmakers Monday he plans to right the department rocked by a contracting scandal by focusing not just on Medicaid and food stamp fraud, but all types of inefficiencies that waste taxpayer dollars in the $37 billion state social services empire.

"This mission is fraud, waste and abuse. Not fraud, only," new HHSC Inspector General Stuart Bowen Jr. told the House Committee on Human Services. "And I want to take a deeper dive organizationally into the waste issue."

It was Bowen's first public appearance since his confirmation last month. He will oversee more than 770 employees who concentrate on fraud and abuse in the state's Medicaid and food stamp programs. The inspector general's office was created in 2003 as a department within HHSC.

Bowen told lawmakers he believes the office "hasn't fully met the goals of 2003" and that he plans to start working on better training and goals for the department with an eye towards "professionalism, productivity and performance." 

Gov. Greg Abbott named Bowen in January to replace Doug Wilson, who was forced to resign by then-Gov. Rick Perry late last year after questions swirled about how OIG, the auditing department within HHSC that roots out fraud and abuse, pushed for a $20 million Medicaid fraud tracking software from Austin company 21CT

The action followed a brutal Sunset review process and revelations that the agency's chief counsel Jack Stick — who was once Wilson's deputy — was a former business partner with 21CT lobbyist. Stick was asked by the HHSC Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek to step down about a week before Wilson was forced out. Three different investigations are currently looking into HHSC's contracting procedures.

On Monday, Bowen, the former special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction and a former top aide to George W. Bush when he was governor and president, told committee members he has named interim inspector general Quinton Arnold as his chief of staff. Austin lawyer Frank Bryan, who served briefly as a state district judge in Travis County in 2002-2003, will be Bowen's deputy, the job once held by Stick before he was promoted to HHSC chief counsel less than a year ago.

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