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State Audit Calls For Closer Scrutiny Of Low-Income Families On Aid

photo of Thomas Schweich
Provided by the auditor's office
State Auditor Tom Schweich issued an audit of all state spending fueled with federal money; the Department of Social Services came under the most criticism.

The Missouri Department of Social Services is the target of most of the criticism in state Auditor Tom Schweich’s latest audit of all state spending fueled with federal money.

Schweich’s report, released Monday, states that the department has failed to fix a problem cited in the last three audits. Auditors had determined that the Department of  Social Services has failed to document that some low-income families are eligible for the federal aid they’ve been receiving.

The department, says the audit, “could not locate eligibility documentation for 12 percent of cases reviewed, eligibility documentation was not sufficient to support a valid need for child care for 18 percent of the files reviewed, and 33 percent of payments reviewed were not supported by adequate documentation and/or were not in compliance with DSS policies.”

In half of the flagged cases, the audit said, the department failed to act “to sanction the recipient.”

In reply, a spokeswoman for the Department of Social Services pointed to the department’s brief responses – cited in the audit – in which the department said it agreed with most of the findings and had developed an action plan for addressing them.

The audit’s findings regarding the Department of Social Services were among the most significant in the massive report, which must be filed every year to comply with state law.

The audit focuses on close to $12 billion in federal money funneled to Missouri in fiscal year 2013 for 344 different federal programs. That money makes up almost half of the state’s $26 billion budget.

Most of the federal money is designated for specific uses and is forwarded by the state to the various state and local agencies that actually spend the money.

Deputy state Auditor Harry Otto noted in an interview that the amount of federal money that Missouri receives is on par with what it received in fiscal year 2009. But it is far less than what the state received in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 when the federal government was offering additional stimulus aid.

In 2010, Missouri received $14.8 billion in federal aid; in 2011, the tally was $14.2 billion.

About two-thirds of the money is designated for social services, including Medicaid, food stamps and the program called “Temporary Assistance to Needy Families.”

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.