Inquiry uncovers fraud in Head Start program

A budget of $3.7 trillion and you begin to wonder how much of it is flushed down the tubes through gargantuan waste and fraud.

We are spending $7.2 billion on the Head Start program this year with an additional $2.1 billion in stimulus funds. The question in this case is how much of that is going to help the kids the program is meant to help?

Undercover investigators trying to enroll a handful of fictitious children in federally funded Head Start child care centers found that in about half of the cases, workers fraudulently misrepresented parents' incomes, addresses and other information to allow kids to qualify for a slot.In one instance, according to the investigators' report, a Head Start worker in New Jersey handed back one of two pay stubs and told an investigator posing as a parent, "Now you see it, now you don't."

Prompted by anonymous tips to a fraud hotline, investigators with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at centers in six states - California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin - and the District of Columbia. In 13 of 15 cases, they tried to enroll children whose family incomes made them ineligible. In two more, families qualified, but the GAO wanted to find out whether Head Start would count children as enrolled even if they never attended the program. In all, investigators found fraud in eight cases.

Much of this is preventable with decent oversight. The problem is lines of authority are obscured in tangle of flow charts and sheer inertia. When no one knows who's responsible, the temptation proves to be too much for many.

Head Start is one of those federal programs that really seems to make a difference to the poor. It gets poor children prepared for school in areas where kindergarten and day care schools are nearly non-existent. Studies have shown a marked difference between poor kids that go through the program and those that don't. 

But this kind of fraud is clearly the tip of the iceberg and should be dealt with along with the rest of the corruption and waste found in federal spending.

 

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky



A budget of $3.7 trillion and you begin to wonder how much of it is flushed down the tubes through gargantuan waste and fraud.

We are spending $7.2 billion on the Head Start program this year with an additional $2.1 billion in stimulus funds. The question in this case is how much of that is going to help the kids the program is meant to help?

Undercover investigators trying to enroll a handful of fictitious children in federally funded Head Start child care centers found that in about half of the cases, workers fraudulently misrepresented parents' incomes, addresses and other information to allow kids to qualify for a slot.

In one instance, according to the investigators' report, a Head Start worker in New Jersey handed back one of two pay stubs and told an investigator posing as a parent, "Now you see it, now you don't."

Prompted by anonymous tips to a fraud hotline, investigators with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at centers in six states - California, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin - and the District of Columbia. In 13 of 15 cases, they tried to enroll children whose family incomes made them ineligible. In two more, families qualified, but the GAO wanted to find out whether Head Start would count children as enrolled even if they never attended the program. In all, investigators found fraud in eight cases.

Much of this is preventable with decent oversight. The problem is lines of authority are obscured in tangle of flow charts and sheer inertia. When no one knows who's responsible, the temptation proves to be too much for many.

Head Start is one of those federal programs that really seems to make a difference to the poor. It gets poor children prepared for school in areas where kindergarten and day care schools are nearly non-existent. Studies have shown a marked difference between poor kids that go through the program and those that don't. 

But this kind of fraud is clearly the tip of the iceberg and should be dealt with along with the rest of the corruption and waste found in federal spending.

 

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky



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