Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. says his agency will focus on stopping waste and fraud.
“We have to have people’s trust that we are spending money wisely,” Siedlecki said Monday in an interview with the Journal-World.
Siedlecki has stirred a public outcry with his decision to shut down nine SRS offices, including Lawrence, which is by far the largest office set for closure.
Siedlecki and his boss, Gov. Sam Brownback, have said the closures are necessary to cut the state budget.
Advocates for the poor and those with disabilities say closing the office will mean an increase in crime and more emergencies because people will not be able to access services.
More than 600 people attended a meeting in Lawrence on Monday to protest the proposal. Siedlecki declined to attend the meeting, but met earlier in the day with Journal-World reporters and editors.
Among the topics he covered, Siedlecki said SRS will mount an anti-fraud and abuse effort including the hiring of an anti-fraud director.
Traveling around the state to various SRS offices, Siedlecki said he is hearing anecdotes about people abusing welfare benefits.
“They’re telling us horror stories,” he said.
Some of those, he said, include stories about people illegally selling Vision Cards, debit cards containing public assistance benefits, such as Food Stamps.
He said a person has to claim to have lost their Vision Card 10 times before SRS can investigate whether they are being sold. He said now SRS will start investigating after the second loss.