Surprise! Fed government wastes over $100M in energy assistance program

Color me flabbergasted…stunned…shocked… According to this report, the Energy Assistance Program wasted over $100M in payments to dead people, prison inmates, and rich people. NO! Say it ain’t so!

A federal program designed to help impoverished families heat and cool their homes wasted more than $100 million paying the electric bills of thousands of applicants who were dead, in prison or living in million-dollar mansions, according to a government investigation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spent $5 billion through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program in 2009, doling out money to states with little oversight of the program. Some states don’t verify applicants’ identifies or income. For example, the program helped pay the electric bill of a woman who lives in a $2 million home in a wealthy Chicago suburb and drives a Mercedes, according to the yet-to-be released report obtained by The Associated Press.

The Government Accountability Office studied the program after a 2007 investigation by Pennsylvania’s state auditor found 429 applicants received more than $162,000 using the Social Security numbers of dead people.

The GAO investigated Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Virginia, which represented about one-third of the program’s funding in 2009. The agency found improper payments in about 9 percent of households receiving benefits in those states, totaling $116 million.

The report comes after a dramatic increase in the size of the assistance checks as fuel oil costs soared in 2008 and 2009.

There will always be a certain level of waste/fraud/abuse in every government program, but do you have to make it so easy?

GAO employees in a sting operation also applied for benefits in Maryland and West Virginia, using counterfeit documents, fake addresses and fictitious companies. “All fraudulent claims were processed and the energy assistance payments were issued to our bogus landlords and company,” according to the report.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she was “very disturbed” by the investigation.

Jeez – glad to hear she’s “very disturbed” by this.



One Response to “Surprise! Fed government wastes over $100M in energy assistance program”

  1. […] Assistance program waste/fraud/abuse update In a previous post, I linked to an article from the AP on the government losing over $100M to waste/fraud/abuse in the […]

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