Welfare Fraud Persists
The LIHEAP heating assistance program is once again under fire from Auditor General Jack Wagner. A 2007 audit lead the district attorney of Philadelphia to charge 18 people with stealing $500,000 from the program. Thirteen pleaded guilty or were convicted.
The follow-up audit covering June 2009 to June 2010 revealed similar problems, like applicants using the Social Security Numbers of dead people, applicants receiving benefits while in prison and applicants who submitted for double payments.
Even more disconcerting is the Auditor’s unveiling of a $800,000 no-bid contract to a Philadelphia law firm to combat fraud and abuse. The auditors determined that this task could have preformed in-house with no legal expertise required. In addition, Wagner’s office determined that the law firm failed to comply with the contract, which required detailed documentation of expenditures and services rendered.
However, the Secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, Gary Alexander, disagrees with the Auditor’s findings. In a letter, the secretary pointed to the small sample of 131 applications and claimed an internal review of 2,607 files revealed a 99.97 percent accuracy rate.