The government may have forked over millions in subsidies to dead farmers because it doesn't do routine checks to ensure payouts are appropriate, an audit released Monday revealed.
Using data from 2008 to 2012, the Government Accountability Office found the federal Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency — which subsidizes crop insurance — may have paid $22 million to 3,434 program farmers who'd been dead at least two years, The Hill reported
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During the same period, the audit estimates the National Resource Conservation Service distributed $10.6 million to 1,103 farmers who'd been dead at least one year, the Washington Times reported
The GAO said Farm Service Agency bureaucrats can't be certain payouts are legitimate because they don't compare policies to death records, like those from the Social Security Administration. The overall budget for farm subsidies runs to about $20 billion a year.
The farm agency managed to identify $3 million in improper payments and got back $1 million, but on a randomized check, the audit found 9 percent of payments weren't documented correctly and may very well be improper.
"Until and unless NRCS and RMA develop and implement procedures to have their payment or subsidy data records matched against SSA’s complete death master file…these agencies cannot know if they are providing payments to, or subsidies on behalf of, deceased individuals; how often they are providing such payments or subsidies; or in what amounts," the investigators wrote, according to the Times.
The Risk Management Agency has instituted a new computer matching system it plans to link to SSA death records, the Department of Agriculture said.
The subsidy blunder pales in comparison with a GAO audit that discovered $1.1 billion in payouts to dead farmers between 1999 and 2005. In 2006, The Washington Post
reported $1.3 billion in farm subsidies went out to people who don't even farm.
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