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Auditor of State Takes on Food Stamp Fraud
Offers Recommendations to ODJFS
Columbus – The State of Ohio reissued nearly 340,000 food stamp EBT cards in 2011 – and since 2006, 17,000 recipients received 10 or more reissued cards, according to an evaluation of the program by Auditor of State Dave Yost.
“This program exists because we don’t want people to starve,” Auditor Yost said. “This money is supposed to be going to feed hungry kids – those kids need the government to try harder to get the job done.”
EBT cards are reissued when recipients report them lost, stolen or damaged.
Recent reports and information received by the Auditor of State’s office allege that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly known as food stamps) benefits are not being utilized by the authorized recipients. The resulting evaluation by the Auditor of State’s office focused on the processes and systems of the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services (ODJFS) and selected county departments of job and family services.
In a letter dated January 10, 2012 sent to the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services, Auditor Yost reported the results of the work. The evaluation identified that during fiscal year 2010, 310,000 EBT cards were reissued to recipients. That number rose to nearly 340,000 in 2011. Since March 2006, there were over 17,000 recipient cases with 10 or more reissued cards, and as many as 75 reissuances were provided to a single recipient.
The evaluation found that ODJFS has not developed policies or procedures for monitoring, identifying and combating fraud related to the reissuance of EBT cards. Auditor Yost offered several recommendations to ODJFS to improve oversight.
The evaluation recommends that ODJFS request the card service provider supply statistical data, which would allow ODJFS and county departments to more readily identify individuals who should be investigated for fraud. Formal policies and procedures should be written for evaluating each recipient identified for follow-up.
It was also suggested that ODJFS work with the federal awarding agency and the Ohio General Assembly to increase penalties for those who commit fraud against the program and to develop penalties for those who abuse the card reissuance process.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,600 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.