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Cancellation of contract for senior aid defended

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Under fire from Democratic lawmakers, the acting Cabinet secretary for the Aging and Long-Term Services Department says the agency will not backtrack on its decision to sever a $20 million contract for a regional management entity that provides services to roughly 70,000 New Mexico seniors and their caregivers.

In a letter sent this week, acting Secretary Kyky Knowles said the department’s decision was well thought-out and based on serious concerns about overbilling and other financial irregularities.

“This action was necessary to ensure that New Mexico’s seniors continue to receive critical community services while also guaranteeing that taxpayer dollars are safeguarded,” Knowles wrote in her letter to state Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque.

The contract cancellation prompted Armstrong, who is a former Cabinet secretary herself, to allege Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration did not follow federal and state regulations in ending the contract.

In addition, U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat who’s running for governor this year, sent a letter this week asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the situation, describing it as a “self-inflicted crisis.”

However, Knowles asserted the agency has adhered to state and federal law in its handling of the issue. She also said it is prepared for a “seamless” transition when it comes to working directly with providers who offer home-delivered meals, transportation and job-finding assistance for thousands of seniors.

The Aging and Long-Term Services Department announced last month that the department was ending its contract with the Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging.

The acting secretary also asked state Auditor Wayne Johnson to investigate possible misuse of public funds on the part of the management entity, which is one of four such entities operating in New Mexico.

Johnson, who was appointed auditor by Martinez in November, recently told the Journal he will review the allegations. He also said the state Auditor’s Office has been looking into other potential financial wrongdoing on the part of the Non-Metro Area Agency on Aging.

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