A state audit Wednesday found problems for the fifth year in a row with how the Department of Children and Family Services oversees and enforces some of its welfare programs.
DCFS did not always keep accurate or complete eligibility documentation for welfare recipients receiving benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, plan, according the the report conducted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office released this week.
The audit identified at least $5,994 in cash benefits issued under the program which were questionable. In a sampling of 25 case files reviewed, there were errors in 12 percent, according to the audit.
DCFS also did not always include documentation verifying work participation hours for TANF's "work-eligible" clients. Five out of 25 sample cases did not include federally required documentation verifying the recipients were working.
The federal government could assess penalties ranging from 1 percent to 5 percent of the $111 million grant, the report said. However, the federal government has never penalized DCFS for weaknesses cited in previous years, said Catherine Heitman, DCFS spokeswoman.
DCFS's own Fraud and Recovery Section identified four employees engaged in improper activity related to the state's food stamp program, called Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, according to the audit.
One of the employees was caught exchanging $2,147 in SNAP benefits for cash and ineligible items. The employee was terminated in November 2015, and disqualified from receiving SNAP benefits for 12 months. As of June, the state had recouped $861.
The other three employees were caught falsifying applications and other eligibility documentation.
In a response to the audit, DCFS Secretary Marketa Walters wrote that she concurs with the findings. Beginning Sept. 1 this year, the department began requiring additional case reviews to ensure documentation was complete and accurate and the programs were in compliance with federal regulations.
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