In the past several years, the federal government paid out more than $32 million in subsidies to dead farmers, according to new report.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), the watchdog arm of Congress, issued findings from an internal audit Monday which recommended the U.S. Agriculture Department do more to avert improper payments to individuals who have died.
The report zeroed in on two USDA agencies--the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency--during the period between 2008 and 2012. Both groups failed to properly cross-check recipients of the funds against the master list of deceased individuals compiled by the Social Security Administration.
The NRCS, which handles conservation programs, sent $10.6 million in payments to 1,103 deceased people about one year or more after their death. The report said, “Some of these payments may have been proper, but NRCS cannot be certain because it neither identifies which of its payments were made to deceased individuals, nor reviews each of these payments.”
The audit also discovered RMA, which administers crop insurance aid, does not use procedures that are “consistent with federal internal control standards” to avoid the issue. According to the report, RMA gave out $22 million to an estimated 3,434 policyholders two or more years after death. The review noted that some of these subsidies could have been made correctly. However, it warned that “without accurate records of which policyholders are deceased, RMA may be less likely to rely on results from data mining—a technique for extracting knowledge from large volumes of data—and therefore be less likely to detect fraudulent, wasteful, or abusive crop insurance claims.”
The report comes as lawmakers continue to hash out a deal on a farm bill.
The USDA issued a response in a letter, saying they “generally agree” with the findings, but disagree with the assertion that these two agencies don’t have the procedures in place to identity deceased program recipients or improper payments.