Legislative audit reveals issues with ‘SNAP’ program

(Source: MGN Online)
(Source: MGN Online)

BATON ROUGE, LA (KPLC) - A new legislative audit report points to some areas where food stamp fraud is happening in the state.

The auditors evaluated the way the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) which provides nutrition to those in need through the Louisiana Purchase cards across the state.

The audit found that of those who received SNAP benefits between 2010 and 2012, 84 were drug felons who redeemed more than $100,000 in benefits which they were not eligible to receive.

The report also states that a January 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General report identified 1,573 recipients who were receiving duplicate benefits in Louisiana and other states from March 2010 to March 2011 for three consecutive months. The report states that according to DCFS, the department is only responsible for 605 of these cases. Other states are responsible for the remainder, officials said in the report.

More than 1,700 people who are in jail also received benefits, totaling more than $1 million, according to the report. Those individuals were also not eligible.

Officials said the audit will provide Children and Family Services with information to fight food stamp fraud.

The audit report was released publicly on Monday.

You can view it in its entirety HERE.

DCFS Secretary Suzy Sonnier released a statement on Monday regarding the audit. Sonnier said:

"As with all programs, DCFS works to ensure the SNAP program is available for eligible applicants by aggressively protecting against fraud and abuse. DCFS has safeguards in place to ensure that only eligible citizens receive SNAP benefits, identify those who are dishonest about their eligibility and to pursue recoupment and/or prosecution in each case.

DCFS' dedicated unit for investigating fraud and abuse utilizes the latest in technology to identify individuals who are trying to cheat the system. Over the past two years, DCFS has worked to modernize its systems with the launch of CAFÉ, which provides greater safeguards in determining eligibility such as data mining with our federal and state partners. As a result of this and other improvements, DCFS has seen its overall payment error rate improve to 4th best in the nation and continues to see its timeliness of cases above the national average.

The Legislative Auditor's report cited areas where potential fraud could occur and DCFS agrees with all four recommendations provided in the report that could improve identification of participation fraud. DCFS has already started working with our state and federal partners in implementing these suggestions.

DCFS takes seriously our responsibility to be good stewards of the resources provided. DCFS is reviewing all the cases cited in the report for potential fraud and will work with authorities to prosecute those who have purposely tried to defraud the system. We will also forward any cases involving retailers to the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service who monitors and investigates retailers."

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