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Friday, September 06, 2013

Largest USDA overpayments go toward farm subsidies, report says

The Department of Agriculture doled out more than $20 million in excess financial assistance last year, with the largest overpayments coming in the form of farm subsidies for crop insurance.

In a report released this week, the USDA inspector general said the agency spent nearly $15 million on undue payouts through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation while issuing no major overpayments for nutrition assistance, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps.

Overpayments are defined as payouts that rise at least 50 percent higher than the correct amount while totaling at least $5,000 per individual or $25,000 per organization, according to the analysis.

The watchdog analysis, released Wednesday, focused on the USDA’s compliance with reporting requirements under an executive order President Obama issued in 2009 to reduce high-dollar overpayments.
The Department of Agriculture reported 239 overpayments worth a combined $20.3 million during the 2012 fiscal year, compared to 143 payouts totaling $11.7 million during the previous cycle, according to the review.
Excess payments through the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation averaged excesses of $209,000 per payout. The next highest amount came from a wildland firefighting program that sent out overpayments of $58,000 apiece on average.
The inspector general said the USDA could decrease its overpayments through better control over bookkeeping and stricter adherence to reporting guidelines, including the deadlines for producing quarterly numbers.
The Agriculture Department said in its response that “agencies misinterpreted or deviated from the requirement of the Office of Management and Budget and the [Office of the Chief Financial Officer].” The agency said its CFO would issue a memo directing each department to certify that its reporting processes comply with the established standards.
-Josh Hicks, WashingtonPost.com
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