tv Senate Agriculture Committee Scrutinizes Supplemental Nutrition Assistance... CSPAN September 18, 2017 10:03am-11:02am EDT
delivered more efficiently at higher quality to all americans. the simple fact is that americans are spending nearly $1 trillion a year on health care, and we are not getting our money's worth. announcer: for the past 30 years, the video library is your free resource for politics, congress, and washington affairs. whether it happened 30 years ago or 30 minutes ago, find it in c-span's video library at c-span.org. c-span, where history unfolds daily. >> the senate agriculture committee held a hearing last week on food stamps, taking a close look at overpayment. kansas senator pat roberts chairs the agricultural committee. >> good morning. i call this meeting of these
said it committee to order. over the last several months, i, along with ranking member stabbed know and colleagues have been working on a new farm bill. -- ranking member stabbed and now -- debbie , and colleagues have been working on a new farm bill. we have held hearings on eight titles. today's hearing covers the nutrition programs for the farm bill. two topics remain. progresshorization affords us the opportunity to review the full range of usda programs to ensure that they are operating efficiently and effectively. program needs -- a major overhaul, but many programs can benefit from increased efficiency, improved integrity, and the production of
waste. >> they are about ensuring our and aboutonomy assisting the vulnerable among us who cannot help themselves. part of a thorough review includes a verifying that the programs are being administered and implemented properly at the federal and state levels. unfortunately, we have learned of some significant issues regarding be administration and oversight of the supplemental nutrition assistance program, or what we call snap. investigations by the department of agriculture's food and nutrition service, the department's office of inspector
or, and the department of justice have revealed that states have a purposely used "whatever means necessary," to mislead the federal government to obtain bonuses or avoid financial penalties. witnesses here today will provide details, but what we have discovered is that the integrity of the stamp program cannot be verified. few states, the process used to measure errors has failed. itslevels of erroneous tame states have made when administering the program is completely unknown. put, no one knows the error rate of a snap and that is unacceptable. notfederal government does even know the basic elements of the problem, such as how long this has been occurring. this program accounts for over 75% of farm bill spending. if we are unable to verify that
this program is making every dollar count and ensure that the right amount of assistance is going to those who really need it, then something needs to change. of thee help distinguished ranking member, something will change. we are not talking about rampant fraud and rampant program of use. -- abuse. we are talking about states cheating the system and gaming the system i'm a an inability to even measure how many tax dollars are being spent in error. this is not fair to taxpayers. it is not fair to those who depend on the program, and it is not right. it is our duty to ensure that the integrity of the program is able to be measured and be verified. once that is accomplished, we must also ensure this program is truly serving those in need and helping them to achieve self
sustainability and not hindering their ability to succeed. much has been made of the ," but it isements of how we be informed achieve the goal of enabling those receiving public assistance to a chain -- achieve self-sufficiency. the last farm bill included a significant investment in work pilots. the test effective at methods of ensuring the long-term success of those in need of assistance. we will need to build on that investment, and continue to test proven methods of success. as we undertake this process of the goals of integrity and truly helping people to become self-sustaining, we will need the support and flexibility of all program stakeholders. lines in the sand and uncompromising positions will , and especially
not the vulnerable populations these programs serve. i am confidentr, we can find a way to ensure the integrity of a and the critical need that the program meets. with that, it is my pleasure to debbieze senator stabbed now .tabenow i like to recognize senator fred eruption may have but first i like to take a moment to express appreciation to the department's food and nutrition services and other agencies. in their work to providing assistance with regards to the hurricanes that we have expressed in this country. i understand the department staff have worked around the clock to provide services and ensure they have success to
assistance in this time of need. i'd like to thank the secretary and staff for everybody involved in their dedication and hard work. it will take the same spirit of working together for those of us to remedy these and other issues that need be addressed. >> thank you mr. chairman. i want to echo the comments you just made about first recognizing the heartbreaking devastation that hurricanes harvey and irma have caused in the south. they underscore the critical need for disaster assistance for both the farmers and our families. i want to commend secretary perdue for his quick actions to administer food assistance and provide flexibility for those in the of the storms so that having enough to eat is the least of their worries. our families deserve eight reliable safety net in times of need, whether it is making disaster snap available during a
hurricane or ensuring a veteran can weather the storm of job loss during a recession. nutrition assistance programs are vital to rebuilding after disaster strikes. the great recession hit our country like a force of nature, causing too many americans to lose their homes and jobs. for those who faced unexpected unemployment or underemployment, the supplemental nutrition assistance program is a short turn lifeline to keep food on the table while they look for stable, long-term jobs that allow them to fully support their families. worth repeating. snap supports families. it is about america saying, we have your back when there is an emergency. snap recipients are children. the vast majority of recipients are children, seniors, people with disabilities, or parents and caregivers that live in
those household. approximately 1.5 million veterans appeal snap benefits at some point, and many of those heroes are considered able-bodied despite lasting challenges from their times of service. even current military families face food hardship. many utilize snap and visit food banks that are often stretched thin to meet community needs. it is important that we keep these people in mind, like mr. parker who is here today to share his story about the impact of snap in his life, and that is an important story. is important reflecting other stories as well as we consider changes to the nutrition systems and the farm bill. as a committee, we can make improvements to snap. we need improvement in every area orrea pair -- program. continue -- i will
continue to be very focused on making sure we are doing that while still preserving critical food access. as we know, we have a farm safety net and a family safety net. we need to make sure there is accountability in both and support for both and that as crises -- prices go down in farm country but jobs have gone up, it is really important to note that we will see significant savings over the next 10 years in snap because things are working as they should. people are going back to work and needing less assistance with their food. made reforms to further strengthen the integrity of nutrition assistance. have ann programs extremely low rate of error and fraud, we addressed rare cases while protecting benefits and eligibility for snap anticipates
who needed access to the family safety net. we also included improvement pilots to allow states to test strategy to help snap participants find stable long-term employment. we are here today, the pilots and broader snap training program creates important community partnerships that connect people to jobs and training that works. rather it focusing on arbitrary have we should focus as we in the past on the types of voluntary partnerships that help families succeed. as i indicated before, the good news is this is happening as the economy has improved and people are getting back to work. we certainly want the economy to move faster. savings in the nutrition program. they are working as intended.
the congressional budget office recently estimated that the farm bill is projected to save $80 billion more than initially expected, largely driven by reduced spending on food assistance. looking ahead to the next farm bill, we will continue to look to ways to strengthen health outcomes in snap through efforts like the nutrition education and the very successful food nutrition incentive program that has often been called double up. oversight ofensure snap at the state and federal level is working as it should. i look forward to hearing from the u.s. da and the inspector general's -- usda and the inspector general's office today and i want to learn more about the ways we can support the work of the food and nutrition service is doing to strengthen the quality control program. mr. chairman, as always, i look forward to working with you as we mean -- move forward to
putting together a great farm bill and i will continue to fine-tune the programs while we are protecting food access for millions of families. thank you. >> thank you, senator. the acting deputy under secretary administrator of food consumer and administrator. he currently serves as the administrator of the food and a asffic -- nutrition service well as the undersecretary and consumer services at the department has the fns administrator. prior to his time at the usda, he served as chief of staff and the officer of chancellor robert duncan at texas tech university.
he led the u.s. agriculture committee during the farm bill welcome to you and i look forward to your testimony. harden, assisted inspector general for the office of inspector general. he is the inspector general for the audit of the inspector general. he currently manages all audits andhe department previously has served in a .ariety of roles he oversaw performance and thencial audits for northwest region. welcome sir, and i look forward to hearing from your perspective. lastly, we have the assistant inspector general for investigations of the inspector general. coffee joins us from the
department of agriculture office and she has served as the assistant inspector general since 2015. she began her career at the office of inspector general and worked as a special agent for the oig and went to the department of homeland security. following her return to the office of inspector general in special05, she led operations division. welcome to you and i look forward to your testimony. chairmanorning, mr. and members of the committee. let me start by thinking you for secretary perdue's leadership. we work to protect agriculture and make sure all americans are fed at this time. the staff has worked overtime to make sure everyone has gotten fed. i am honored to be here today to
talk about the supplemental programn assistance quality assurance. i am the deputy undersecretary and administrator for the food nutrition service. i look forward to working with this committee to make sure those most in need have access making fns programs work. programs, westate will ensure no american goes hungry. you have invited me here to talk about snap quality control, or as we often refer to it as qc. the system measures improper payments, often referred to as the payment error rate. this rate is a combination of those that are too high and too low. it is a measure of errors in issuing -- issuing benefits and not misuse of benefits. quality control is a two-tiered system between the states and fns. states review cases for error and fns reviews a sample to make sure states have made the
correct determination. typically, the usda releases snap on it annual basis. however, the usda and the inspector general and the qc from releasingus those fns noted rate reductions appeared to quickly like dropping off a quick and making us question the integrity of the qc system. aat led snap to create for different statistical errors to home the data for bias. when fns found that all states look that showed problems in all four categories, they quickly moved to an in-depth review of all state industries. the results -- surprised us. more often, states were hiding errors from federal reviewers. in doing so, they bypassed the data control and prevented the snap from catching the bias until new indicators were developed.
taste on the finding and those , we tryolleagues at oag to eliminate the bias in late 2014. also made policy and guidance review policies more robust. we issued memos and guidance to states and revise the handbook and provided additional training for federal and state staff. we developed a new management evaluation guide to strengthen our oversight and make new data services to validate state findings. theme be clear, fns owns role in problems and is taking strong action to solve them. the most egregious problems did not result from unclear guidance p for example, we learned in some states are a reduction committees which are intended to identify errors going forward were instead hiding the errors they found from fns. the changes fns has made to the qc system will make those behaviors less likely. the bias will require good faith on all sides.
fns has not released national air rates because of 2014 because the data was unreliable. i fully expect to release an air raid for fiscal 2017 when the efforts are fully reflected in the data. fns is committed to continually improving the qc system and the integrity of snap as a whole. we will hold ourselves accountable and our state partners accountable and we work forward to looking with you on resources. i'm happy to answer any questions. >> good morning. for the opportunity to testify about oig's efforts to help fns to ensure the integrity of the snap program. is the assistance of ig investigations. my statement will focus on the qc process and the related investigation. through our audits, oig helps
federal investigations. with published audit reports that resulted in 77 recommendations and to $99 million in findings. ledsnap investigations have to arrests, since hundred indictments, 1500 indictments, as well as monetary results. in 2013, oig initiated an audit of snaps qc process and we recognize the improper payment rate for snape had been steadily declining. snap benefits had nearly doubled. rate,t a low error improper payments for snap still averaged over $2 billion annually. we found consonants cannot be placed in the error rate very for example, in all eight states week visited, private consultants and review committees used methods to eliminate errors found during the qc process rather than reporting the cases as errors. hireber of states third-party consultants to
actively work to eliminate errors and therefore improve the state error rate. these states saw dramatic improvements in their error rate depending on the state. we also found other issues with how error rates were calculated. for example, state reviewers did not correctly identifying kolkata airs during their review of snap cases. as a result, errors were improperly excluded. fns did not adequately -- adequately review state results. the results in 27 of the 60 cases we reviewed were unsupported, questionable, or inaccurate. as a result, fns lack the confidence in revealing that. theelped fns read improve qc process. one unique oig investigation has
highlighted significant problems with the qc process. our investigators received a whistleblower complaint related to the activities of a third-party consultant working in one state. so far, this investigation has resulted in two states, virginia and wisconsin, agreeing to pay over $14 million to resolve this. they states admitted that used consultants to review the air cases identified by the workers heard the consultants advise the use of several improper and highest practices, including finding a basis for dropping air cases from review, requiring houses to overturn and reduce errors, and asking beneficiaries leading questions to obtain desired questions -- answers. this improperly decreased the states air rate and as a result, the states were paid money they were not entitled. this investigation is ongoing. i want to thank the committee for the opportunity to testify
and am welcome to any questions you may have. >> thank you very much. statements.e the time tou for taking the join us today. i appreciate it. that what i have heard is extreme a disturbing. the integrity of the largest food assistance program spans over -- spends over $70 billion a year simply unknown. the oig has found that the quality control process is broken and in need of reform. not only that, we have a number of states that have defrauded the federal government and are being investigated by the department of justice. said theou
questions were raised. what it's completed an in-depth review, was there any indication doreby it -- bias bettered you have a sense of what point the rates became ineffective? >> unfortunately, i cannot give you an answer to that question. the oig notes that in its report the consultant first started acting with states as early as 2004 when states individual rates dropped radically. there has been some level of a bias in the system for over a decade. >> 2004? >> yes, sir. >> we have a problem that could have started 13 years ago. >> that is correct. for fiscalreview
year 2015 found that 42 out of and territory agencies were improperly administrating the quality control process. a document referenced by the media indicated that the very play mary estimates of 2015 national air rate could be the between 4% and 7%. if that is the case, 7% would be almost double the 2014 error rate. something is pretty fishy here. that was biased and would have indicated over $5 billion in error. do you have any updated estimates for 2015? >> unfortunately, we do not. the data is so significantly biased that we do not feel we can fried you an accurate measure of that rate. >>, so you're basically saying the data was unreliable and so
therefore you cannot release the error rate for 2015 or 2016? yes, sir. >> do you have better data now? we want to really set in 2017. we believe the bias will be removed is significantly and our statisticians advise we can get an accurate rate for 2017. >> i appreciate that. we have no idea how much taxpayer money was wasted. it could be $3 million or $5 million or $10 million. >> yes, sir. >> i think it goes without saying that is a lot of money. during the reviewer states were fully -- did states fully cooperate with fns? there is a range on that. somewhere and some were not there there were egregious errors that oig reported.
some were not forthcoming with fns staff. >> can you describe some of the difficulties for us? >> for us to be able to perform accurate reviews, we have to have the entire case file from the state. they do not want to all give us access to their data. sometimes there are legitimate issues for us to get the data, and we need to work on that. we think some states were intentionally keeping that data from us. we believe some states destroyed portions of the data that was part of their review for we came into review those. >> is this an open investigation? >> yes, sir. there is an ongoing investigation. >> i understand the fns did their own reviews of snap cases in 2016 while states worked to correct the processes during the case reviews.
what level of air did you find? approximate how much in improper payments does it indicate? senator, i would unfortunately give you the same answer that we cannot give you an accurate measure. i do think as the rate reported in 2014 was 3.66, and we noted significant bias. it is definitely about for and could be significantly higher. recognize it recently came on board in june, but it is absolutely imperative that we work together with a department at all committee members to address these issues. coffey, the aji noted that the investigation is ongoing that wisconsin and virginia have set up with the department of justice. issuesy of the 42 states
are being currently investigated? unfortunately, it is an ongoing investigation and 60 states are considered that i cannot comment but multiple states are involved. >> multiple? >> yes, sir. >> so they could be all 42, it could be 20, bigger than a breadbox, what are we talking about? is not all 42.it that is what i can offer at this time. >> it is a significant number. >> it is a significant number, sir. >> have you ever encountered a case where so many states have been defrauding the federal government? >> i have been doing this shop for a number of years and this is a unique situation. we have not encountered this type of investigation previously in my experience. we need a better adjective and unique.
we will work on that. during your investigation, did oig look into the information regarding pressure on state employees to use information from a consultants? >> during the course of the investigation, and that is part of what was acknowledged in the state of virginia, there was pressure placed on the employees to adhere to the message from the consultant company. that is something we did look into. however, we do not have jurisdiction to impact the employees within the state of virginia unless it was a criminal matter. in that instance, within the state of virginia, it was an administrative matter had -- handled by the state of virginia. >> the states under investigation, what further action could occur? >> i cannot comment specifically in this instance. generally speaking, if there is a criminal or civil matter that
we are working with the department of justice on, if we are not able to reach a settlement agreement, the next step typically would be that the matter went to trial, either criminal or civil. states thatmber of we indicated before that we don't know and we can't comment , with therstand that department of justice under into that? based on your audit come what role do believe he a most $50 million a year in state bonuses played in creating conflicts of interest? sorry. that goes to mr. hardy. >> we think the conflict of interest stems from the two-tier process for the qc process for states and federal level. was that process accurately and --
giving the errors. we considered this a very inherent conflict of interest for the states and that is why it led to us making the recommendations they are still working on to look at the process and see if there is a cost beneficial way to move away from the two-tier process to have fns do it alone or through a third party doing it independently. i would also recognize that we know this recommendation is not new necessarily. it is something that was recommended back in 1987 by an outside study that noted a conflict of interest that went along with the process. wasasically, the program incentivizing bad behavior? and stuff we heard from state staff as we do that work. they expressed concern with what the consultants were wanting
them to do in training them to do. at some states said we are trying to keep up with the joneses and you need to use the consultants to help get the error rates down or else they would not be in line for the bonuses. they recognized they are competing for the bonus and it was a consequence of that. >> so they were gaming the system? can you describe what you found in your audit regarding the methods the states try to eliminate errors or otherwise improperly reduced their error rates? can you comment on that to some degree? consultantsthat the used to train the staff on techniques would ask blake the process. mostly qced work on workers and how they could mitigate the heirs and how to use the errors for the process, which was how it was intended. they encouraged the use of air review committees by states to
eliminate the heirs as opposed to working on solutions to make the program stronger. >> how to the fns responded to the recommendations from the oig audit? >> i would say this was a very difficult audit. in our typical fashion, we worked with the agencies and we learned what we were learning to the process and we made sure we understood what we were hearing and tried to find out if there was other information to consider. at the time we issued the report, we did not reach agreement on all recommendations and corrective actions to take. i would like to say, since that time we have reached agreements. they reported that 14 of the recommendations they are working on. referredof steps they to in terms of how to improve the program are in line with the recommendations we made. down the road, one we review
this as a follow-up, will look to see how effective those changes were. >> but there was pushed back bettero this latest relationship that you had with fns? >> there was pushed back throughout the process and i would say it is because of the sensitivity of the nature. it included discussions all the way up to the secretary level. from my perspective and opinion, having discussions at that level is part of the process that we do for any major audit work and we need to hear the reviews in how we think of things. we don't always agree, but we need to hear what they are having to say and talk those things out and proceed on a path forward. noted in your testimony that in fiscal year 2013, snape had the highest participation level in the history of the program? yet they had the lowest error rate.
still, 2.4 billion in error is not a small amount of money. do you find record high participation with a record low air rate to be rather unusual? >> i would say that we were aware that the air rate was trending down and from what we learned, it was caused by a number of factors. one of those factors was fns tolerance error threshold in 2012 from $25 to anythingh meant that below $50 as an air would not be reported so that contribute to to rates going down. i also want to know that as part of the 2014 farm bill, congress established thresholds. fns also had policies that simplified things like simplified reporting which did not require staffers to report
changes in income as freely as they had before or had caseworkers follow up on that. they would not know of changes because they were not required to report them. for youryou very much testimony. i apologize to my colleagues for going over time. >> thank you, mr. chairman. important and very serious issue we need to address. i do want to make it clear this is about state reporting and what they are doing. this is not about individual people committing fraud. this is about what the states are doing in the system and many cases i know the heirs are data entry or greatest rate of , and what they are doing to manipulate the system. if you could give us examples of the kinds of things that are counted as errors.
>> i may have to get back you on's -- back to you on specifics. there are 48 things they check as the qc process. it is income levels, work history, if they are working. one of the problems we have found with worker compliance is that when states were checking, it was not a requirement for them to check on that. sometimes they did not do the extra digging to find out about that. determining their status in terms of veterans and those types of things are the things they are checking. >> so how much they are really digging into it? >> that was really the problem with saw is that states were following the guidance that fns provided and the guidance was without contrary and regulations. they were following what was in
the handbook, but the handbook did not agree with what the regulations said. the federal reviewers and fns were not really digging into and making independent assessments of what the states did. there was not the full review that was necessary to know if the benefit amount that was given was correct. coffey thank, ms. you for being anything. feel free to chime in if you want to add anything. >> i can comment a little bit. did see from the investigation side that there was definitely encouragement on the part of the third-party consultants to misrepresent facts to the federal authorities when they were submitting information to fns in efforts to lower their payment error rates. these were things like stretching their income as
extensive and altering documents of that nature. >> the state was doing this? >> that is correct. >> the heirs reflect overpayments and underpayments, correct? >> yes. >> so it could be either. >> where there is an overpayment , when thee -- error states recoup the payment, and i understand they go back overpayments and recoup the dollars, that counts as an error, correct? >> yes, it should. one of the things we saw was that in some states reviewers would have identified in error, they weren't communicating that back to the caseworkers or the people that would carry out and pursue the repayment. >> so there is an overpayment, in the same if there was an under payment and they corrected that, that counts as an error in
the should be reporting that, even of it has been corrected? >> yes. the u.s. to has issued several mammals and undertaken a variety of things to correct the bias that you talk -- the usda theissued several advised -- advisories and undertaken a variety of things to correct the bias you talk about. can they issue reliable air rates for the fiscal year 2017? >> i do think the most significant change is the corrective action plans we have entered into with the 42 state. we have identified what they were entering bias into the system and would require them to report to us how they are going to change this. following through on the plans gives us staff confidence they are going to be able to report a rate for 2017. i have asked that question as many different ways as i can,
and i can assure you we will get you a rate. there are a number of important factors. we are not only changing our management model but changes for qc personnel. we are requiring that any contract with third-party consultants with regard to qc reviews are reviewed by the fns national office for they move forward to make sure they are not entering in to a contract of the advice they were getting before. for theto say thank you congress providing us $4 million in 2016 to hire extra reviewers at the federal level. issues is one of the that our federal reviewers were expected to review between 600 and 700 cases a year, which was not allowing them to take as deeply as they needed to. we should have looked at that as an internal issue at fns paid we asked -- appreciate the extra
funds and will assure they are working hard. >> along that line, because oig has recommended moving away from the two-tier system to a single tier system, and in looking at that, it does raise questions, staffyou need additional and resources to be able to move to a single tier system? >> i do not have a specific answer on that. i certainly would expect that we would -- that the two-tier system should work if administered property. we have an outside entity looking at this issue and we will report back to you when we get that from them. >> at this point, given what is happening in the focus and the needed focus on all of this and the actions that are being taken, do you feel that additional legislation is needed to fix this, or are we talking about additional resources to support what the department is
currently doing? about, weave talked have made significant internal changes and we believe that will get us to a corrected error rate. need to be careful that we don't end up back to this place in the future and we certainly will work with you and any ideas you have with regard to legislation to make sure it does not happen. >> thank you very much. thank you, mr. chair. thank you to our witnesses here today. i would like to start. usda admitted -- usda administers a handful of over 80 federal programs designed to serve low income americans. according to the gao, these programs are too fragmented and overly complex for clients to navigate. finders and policy makers
it hard to what steps is the usda to better coordinate with other agencies to make the safety net more cohesive? not taken, we have significant steps since my arrival, that we do intend to do so. with regard to what these reviewers have to look like, applications for this program i would say is akin to following a tax return. we have to look at different factors and decide if their compliant. it is a difficult process and we are always looking for ways so that we have access while we are making sure we have integrity in the program. it is always a difficult balance. allowing programs to work across help on that, there are other agencies that have access to data that we do not have at fns that could be help in that. we hope to be working with you all in resolving this in the future. >> i hope so.
it is a complicated area. i think by linking the agencies together, not only can we better assist the americans that need these support systems, but also stop some of the fraud that might exist out there. i would encourage you to continue working with other agencies in those areas and also .mprove that coordination despite over 80 programs and billions and billions of taxpayer dollars that have been spent, the federal government often times fails to address the barriers to self-sufficiency based by those that are currently living in poverty. a plug for one of my bills, earlier this year i introduce the empowers act. that is a bill that would allow states to pursue pilot projects that integrate certain programs and better address the challenges that are faced by low income families and individuals,
but that does require a lot of these agencies working together to find a better way forward. we are always looking for efficiency and waste to prevent fraud and abuse within the system. mr. harden, snape is one of the largest benefit programs for those in need. the oig findings are very concerning. i think you have heard that over and over again from this panel. what specifically can we do as theress, especially with farm bill coming up, are there ways we can address these types of systems to any legislation beyond rules that might address it in the agencies? >> we would continue to have conversations with fns as we go through this. as a result of our work, we did for anythe need necessary legislative change. it was just a matter of applying
the rules and regulations that were already there. see the needf we for legislative change, we do make those recommendations to agencies and have them work through the process for putting them forward. we make sure we advise the committees that we have made those recommendations. we did not do that this time. >> i thank you for raising this attention -- bringing this to our attention here at this level. thank you for the proper oversight necessary for the program to be successful. with that, mr. chair, i will yield back my time. >> thank you, mr. chairman. senator casey, i apologize. mr. chairman, thank you very much and thank you for the hearing. i want to thank our witnesses. i want to start with the value of the snap program and a state
like pennsylvania, a big diverse state with economic challenges. in our state, snap is helping one in 12 workers in the state to put food on the table. 500-7000s more than 500,000ania -- pennsylvania workers participated. i spent 10 years in elected office in pennsylvania, eight of those as a state auditor general, which meant on a daily basis i was kicking the hell out of state programs that were not efficient, effective, and in some cases wasting taxpayer dollars. enduring obligation to make sure every program measures up to the expectations of taxpayers. that is why this hearing is so important. at the same time, there are some
folks in washington, i don't think anyone in this committee, but some folks who use examples abuse orf fraud and overpayment or whatever the description again is to take a meat ax to programs and hack away at them while allowing notr programs to be involved in that accountability. my question involves what can we do to ensure that what i am told is a payment error rate for fiscal year -- the most risk recent one for 2014, correct? >> yes, sir. >> with that number in front of to make sure we are
bringing that number down more. i realize states, because they program,ng with the qc may not measure air rates fairly or consistently. rates fairly or consistently. lipps,t this to you, mr. what can we do to get meaningful improvement as opposed to ?mproving the measure and mar >> improving the qc rate is about improving the program as it is delivered to the recipient . we talk about wasted taxpayer money, and it is a very important factor. it is extremely important for the recipient. the qc -- if the qc rate is zero, you're delivering what the people deserve. the lower we get that to zero,
the better job we are doing of ensuring each recipient is getting the money you intended them to have. >> how do you think we arrive at that point? what is the best way to get there? >> i think we always work for a lower error rate. these things that i have talked about that fns has taken action on with regard to working with a partnership between the federal and the state. we have to work on this issue. there are a lot of states involved in this process but we want to make sure each state has the ability to adapt that to the best of their citizens. last question i have is with the bonus and penalty system. the report, among other things, indicates that both bonus and penalty contributed to the problem. do you think there is a need to reevaluate that? >> there has been a lot of
discussion on that issue and we look forward to engaging with you on that. the state said both of them influenced their actions. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. sen. boozman. >> i would like to follow up on the bonus situation. the 2012 farm bill offered an amendment on the floor that would give lower air rates, many used to encourage the state to do something odd to be doing anyway and would reinvest the savings into the emergency food assistance program. oig report shows, the bonuses obviously created an incentive for those two smit false error rates. -- two submit false error rate. do you think we should get rid of the bonuses? >> in terms of us looking at the
program, i do not want to say what the policy should be, but we did note that was a big part of the conflict of interest at states when they were looking at themselves and trying -- they used the consultants and a new if they got lower air rates they would get better bonuses. very good. so that is a nice way of saying that there is a significant problem there? >> yes, sir. >> mr. harden, as you stated in your testimony, oig made 19 recommendations and intended to assist fns to improve quality control process. could you briefly summarize some of the recommendations? do any of those carry more weight than others question i get so, which ones are they and
has fns directed them? the most significant recommendation that we had in the report was the first one that talks about looking into the cost-benefit of whether we should move away from the two-tier system. i know fns is acting on that right now and they have a request for a proposal and are looking at that. process can work, but it has to be managed the right way. that would be something we definitely wanted them to look at. a lot of the other recommendations that have been implemented in terms of making sure there is finance out there if you will use consultants because there was not guidance guidancelarifying to carry out qc reviews, and double up on a federal review process to make sure they had the right type of oversight to look at the cases and asking the
proper questions. there are only five, but they are continuing to be open and they have not reported back to the department and implemented. the one that will take the longest is the one of the two-tier process, which is expected currently to be put in place by next year. with an then follow up agency usually after an agency has had a chance to implement the recommendations, 18 to 24 month after. we will definitely looking at this in the 2020-2021 cycle. >> what is the timeline to get this closed out? >> i do not have exact dates onwe are very close on each of them. we have worked with oig to move forward very the question of the one tear up system, we have that contract and it will take time to do the analysis. it will be at least a year on that issue. a year on that issue. >> what do you see as the
biggest challenge facing fns as you make changes to implement oig's recommendations and improve the accuracy of the snap right now? >> the biggest challenge is making sure that the partners are working with us to a valid qc rate. has encouraged to do, we will continue to be good partners with them. what am want to commit to you is that we review our qc oversight, regularly so we don't end up in this situation, again. >> thank you, mr. chairman and thanks to the panel. >> thank you, mr. chairman. we are great -- very grateful to be holding this hearing. i know everyone is determined to fight poverty in our country and we know that snape is one of our most effective tools to do that.
it can drive down health costs and improve people's health. they can hope our data can help our children stay focused in school. the data is clear that snap plays a enormous role in giving low income americans access to the nutrition they need and helps communities. >> you can watch this hearing in its entirety online. and typeo c-span.org snap into the search bar. we take you to remarks by u.s. trade representative robert lighthizer. introductions are underway. >> because there are so many people here, and i know everybody is going to have questions. everybody was given a card when you came in. fill out that card, that way we not get lectures and we are