Legal Services Corporation:

Substantial Problems in 1997 Case Reporting by Five Grantees

GGD-99-135R: Published: Jun 25, 1999. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed five of the Legal Services Corporation's (LSC) largest grantees, focusing on whether the grantee: (1) properly documented the client's eligibility; (2) provided legal services within the past year; and (3) reported duplicate cases.

GAO noted that: (1) the five grantees as a group reported a total of about 221,000 cases to LSC that were closed during 1997 and open at the end of the year; (2) GAO estimates, based on reporting errors disclosed by the grantees and GAO's case file review, that nearly 75,000 cases were questionable; (3) the five grantees GAO reviewed had substantial errors in the number of cases they reported as closed during 1997, as well as the number of cases they reported as remaining open at the end of the year; (4) the grantees identified their own reporting errors, ranging from fewer than 1 percent of reported cases for one grantee to as many as 51 percent for another grantee; (5) three grantees informed GAO that they had overreported closed cases, three informed GAO that they have overreported open cases, and one informed GAO that it had underreported open cases; (6) the primary causes for these errors were: (a) improperly reporting to LSC cases that were funded by other sources; and (b) problems inherent in grantees' case management reporting systems; (7) on the basis of GAO's case file review, GAO estimates that the percentage of questionable cases reported by the five grantees ranged from between 2 percent to 12 percent at one grantee to between 36 percent and 48 percent at another grantee; (8) GAO deemed these cases as questionable for one of the following reasons: (a) the grantee reported duplicate cases for the same legal service to the same client; (b) some case files did not contain any documentation supporting the grantee's determination that the client was either an U.S. citizen or was an eligible alien; (c) for cases reported as closed during 1997, some case files showed no grantee activity during the 12 months before the case was closed; (d) for cases reported as open as of December 31, 1997, some case files showed no grantee activity during calendar year 1997; and (e) some case files did not contain any documentation that the grantee had determined that the client was financially eligible for LSC services; and (9) LSC and the five grantees GAO reviewed had taken or planned to take steps to correct the causes of these case-reporting problems.

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