Missouri auditor criticizes food stamp fraud investigations

5 months 1 week 6 days ago Tuesday, June 05 2018 Jun 5, 2018 Tuesday, June 05, 2018 6:01:00 PM CDT June 05, 2018 in News
By: The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) - An audit has found multiple problems with how Missouri tracks fraud within a program that provides food aid for low-income families.

Auditor Nicole Galloway released a report Tuesday that found flaws in how the Department of Social Services kept track of data between 2015 and 2016, making it difficult for the department to know if fraud occurs within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps.

The report flagged millions of dollars spent exclusively out-of-state and thousands spent by people who were apparently dead or incarcerated, transactions that were often not properly reviewed.

On a scale of "excellent," ''good," ''fair," or "poor," the audit says that the department's system for detecting fraud was "fair."

"This audit found hundreds of thousands of SNAP transactions that raised red flags, but were not seriously investigated," Galloway said in a statement. "Misuse or abuse of these benefits means that taxpayer dollars are wasted and resources are not going to Missouri families in need."

Rebecca Woelfel, spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services, wrote in an email that the department was working to improve several areas cited in the report, and said their system for evaluating out-of-state transactions was reformed this year.

The SNAP program was established in the 1960s to help poor families buy food. Missouri doled out more than $2.4 billion between 2015 and 2016 to hundreds of thousands of recipients. On average, a Missouri household received about $260 a month, according to the report.

The program understandably produces large amounts of data, and the auditor's office found a litany of issues with how that data was collected, organized and reviewed by the department and eFunds Corporation, the company hired to manage it.

The audit flagged more than $16 million spent only out-of-state for 90 days or more. Benefit money can legally be spent outside Missouri, and there are many legitimate reasons to do so.

Jeanette Mott Oxford, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Empower Missouri, pointed out that Missouri borders eight other states.

"The best store to buy what they need, whether it's a coat or groceries, may actually be across the state line," she said.

Recipients must live in the state to remain eligible, however, and hundreds of people were spending money exclusively in California, Texas, Florida and other areas far from Missouri. Even then, the audit noted that people have to travel for a variety of reasons, including military service.

Yet many of those cases were not investigated quickly, or at all. During one 18-month stretch, the department received more than 51,000 alerts of suspicious activity. But of all the investigations the department opened during those years_5,705_only five were instigated by an alert or a report.

Part of the reason was that the alerts did not identify the person who triggered it, meaning a large amount of time had to be spent just determining who the recipient was. The report said that the department has asked eFunds Corporation to improve its alert system, but noted that the request was part of "a long list of other outstanding requests."

The audit also noted that the department was paying eFunds $10,000 a month for services it was not using.

More News

Grid
List
BOONE COUNTY - One person was hospitalized Saturday evening after a shooting just east of Columbia, the Boone County Sheriff's... More >>
26 minutes ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 11:01:00 PM CST November 17, 2018 in News
LAKE OZARK - Community members gathered Saturday to raise money for the Police Unity Tour. Every year, police officers... More >>
4 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 7:12:00 PM CST November 17, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - A Columbia man is home from the hospital Saturday after spending three weeks in the ICU, recovering from... More >>
4 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 6:58:00 PM CST November 17, 2018 in News
PHELPS COUNTY - One man was airlifted to the hospital Saturday morning after he suffered "a large caliber gunshot wound... More >>
6 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 4:46:00 PM CST November 17, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Fall Into Art kicked off the weekend with its annual show, and artists shared what their art means... More >>
7 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 3:50:00 PM CST November 17, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - One of the largest holiday shopping events in mid-Missouri takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Columbia Exposition... More >>
9 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 2:20:00 PM CST November 17, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - From the amateurs to the professional travel teams, dodgeball players of all skill sets took part in the... More >>
9 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 2:05:00 PM CST November 17, 2018 in News
CALLAWAY COUNTY - A chase that reached speeds of 115 mph and a subsequent foot pursuit led to the arrest... More >>
10 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 12:50:00 PM CST November 17, 2018 in News
Royal Palm Beach, FL ( WPTV ) -- Firefighters rescued several pets from a house fire in Royal Palm Beach... More >>
11 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 11:45:00 AM CST November 17, 2018 in News
COLE COUNTY - Another fatal crash occurred in Missouri early Saturday morning. 30 year-old Richard Lowry, of Eugene, was pronounced... More >>
17 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 5:57:00 AM CST November 17, 2018 in News
SEDALIA - A Sedalia woman was pronounced dead following a crash near Sedalia on Nov. 16. 51-year-old Janna McQueen... More >>
18 hours ago Saturday, November 17 2018 Nov 17, 2018 Saturday, November 17, 2018 5:24:00 AM CST November 17, 2018 in News
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A jury has found a Wisconsin man guilty of first-degree murder for killing a Missouri mother who... More >>
1 day ago Friday, November 16 2018 Nov 16, 2018 Friday, November 16, 2018 9:47:00 PM CST November 16, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - Families filled empty shoeboxes with hygiene products, school supplies, clothes, shoes and toys for children in need at... More >>
1 day ago Friday, November 16 2018 Nov 16, 2018 Friday, November 16, 2018 8:04:00 PM CST November 16, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA - The price of a typical Thanksgiving meal in Missouri is a full $5.25 higher than the national average.... More >>
1 day ago Friday, November 16 2018 Nov 16, 2018 Friday, November 16, 2018 7:18:00 PM CST November 16, 2018 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - The nature of Twitter and how government officials use it was at the heart of a hearing... More >>
1 day ago Friday, November 16 2018 Nov 16, 2018 Friday, November 16, 2018 4:11:00 PM CST November 16, 2018 in News
ST. LOUIS - The University of Missouri Board of Curators announced cuts to costs Friday to help with enrollment at... More >>
1 day ago Friday, November 16 2018 Nov 16, 2018 Friday, November 16, 2018 3:24:00 PM CST November 16, 2018 in News
(CNN) -- USA Gymnastics' longtime chief operating officer has resigned, the organization said Friday, becoming the latest in a string... More >>
1 day ago Friday, November 16 2018 Nov 16, 2018 Friday, November 16, 2018 2:56:27 PM CST November 16, 2018 in News
COLUMBIA- A tree in downtown Columbia became the target of vandalism Thursday night when two men were caught on camera... More >>
1 day ago Friday, November 16 2018 Nov 16, 2018 Friday, November 16, 2018 2:49:00 PM CST November 16, 2018 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 37°
12am 32°
1am 32°
2am 32°
3am 32°