Delaware Auditor wants more scrutiny for entitlements

While the number of Delawareans depending on food stamps and other entitlement programs to survive in tough economic times is on the rise, a new audit finds the state is not doing all it can to prevent fraud.

State Auditor Tom Wagner’s latest audit examined how the state monitors the eligibility of residents who are receiving state assistance. Each year, the state spends more than $600 million in federal funds on entitlement programs like welfare, education, housing and unemployment.

“Too often the debate focuses on how to fund these programs,” Wagner said. “This audit supported efforts already under consideration in Delaware to further ensure funds consistently go to those most in need of a helping hand and not individuals attempting to scam the system.”

The audit discovered that Delaware’s welfare programs “rely heavily on self-certification,” where applicants only need to sign paperwork affirming their eligibility without having to show any sign of proof to start receiving assistance.

“Caseworkers have essentially been trained not to ask a lot of questions so as not to create barriers in applying for benefits,” Wagner’s report states.

Fraud claims double

Fraud claims in the food stamp or SNAP program doubled from 851 in FY 2009 to 1,927 in FY 2012. The total dollar amount owed back to the state over that time period increased from $966,384 in 2009 to $2,332,101 in 2012, according to the audit report.

Another area of concern for Wagner is cutbacks in the number of investigators the state employs to look into fraud claims.

“Investigator positions have been cut almost in half from 24 in FY 2009, to just 15 in FY 2013,” the report states. Wagner says better techniques and new technology made the investigations more efficient, but each investigator still had more than 2,000 cases to address as of December 2011.

Wagner’s report recommends a better management system for administering benefits to residents in need.

“Ensuring adequate evidence is presented and maintained to prove identification and benefits received if required as a condition of eligibility,” the report stated. Wagner is also recommending that the state establish an integrated system to link a resident’s application for help from various agencies together into one account. That system could then be used to verify eligibility for benefits.

You can read the entire report, Performance Audit of Means-Tested Eligibility Entitlement Programs, below:

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