Problems Persist in the Puerto Rico Food Stamp Program, the Nation's Largest

CED-78-84: Published: Apr 27, 1978. Publicly Released: Apr 27, 1978.

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In 1971, legislation was enacted which authorized the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to participate in the food stamp program; today, the Puerto Rico program is the largest food stamp operation in the nation in terms of both the percentage of population participating and the total value of stamps issued monthly.

Problems have existed in the Puerto Rico program since it began, but little was done in the past by the Commonwealth or the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to solve the problems. Auditors found accountability deficiencies, resulting from problems reported in 1974, and other problems such as: (1) lack of documentation suporting retroactive benefit issuances; (2) inadequate monitoring of Commonwealth personnel who both participated in the program and administered it; and (3) failure to identify questionable authorization card redemptions. Corrective action by the Commonwealth was delayed without adequate explanation. Recently, more substantial actions have been taken to improve program performance. There is a need, however, for improvement in computer system operations in order to correct problems in program service and accountability.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should have the Administrator, FNS,: (1) direct that the FNS steering committee formed to help resolve Puerto Rico food stamp management problems address the program management deficiencies outlined; (2) form a technical assistance group responsible for the long-term improvement of the Commonwealth's food stamp computer system; and (3) require the Commonwealth, with technical assistance from the computer group, to undertake a series of corrective actions for improving the computer system.

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