Audit finds abuse of heating-help program in Pa.

    The state auditor general has found internal problems in Pennsylvania’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which doles out money to people who need help with their heating bills.

    LIHEAP is a federal program, but it’s administered by the state Department of Public Welfare.

    Auditor General Jack Wagner says there were problems with 8 percent of randomly chosen payments made from 2009 to 2010. For instance, some people applied twice with different Social Security numbers.

    He said the audit found multiple payments were made to the same households and applications from inamtes were approved.

    “The winter season is just three months off. You’re going to start seeing applications in your inbox for LIHEAP,” Wagner said Wednesday. “Before any application is filled out this year, there needs to be a dramatic improvement in the management and the oversight of the LIHEAP program within the Department of Public Welfare.”

    He said when the DPW gets $257 million to serve needy Pennsylvanians, the error rate is unacceptable.

    “There would be people who literally freeze to death in their homes without this program. It’s a vitally important program. I would never be an advocate for the elimination of the program,” he said. “I want to see us fix the program.”

    Wagner says the problems found in LIHEAP payments are almost identical to those uncovered in a 2007 audit.

    A spokesman for DPW says the agency is still reviewing the auditor general’s final report.

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