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Highlights

GAO examined fraud and abuse in the Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), focusing on: (1) what is known about the amount of fraud and abuse in the program, including the levels of fraud and abuse being detected by the state and local agencies responsible for administering WIC; and (2) the efforts taken to prevent and detect fraud and abuse and barriers to these efforts.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Agriculture 1. To enhance USDA's ability to improve program integrity and encourage better efforts to prevent and detect fraud and abuse by state and local WIC agencies, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), to amend the regulations on vendor management to ensure that the states limit their authorized vendors to a number they can effectively manage and issue guidance to the states on the specific criteria FNS will use to assess their compliance with the regulations and the actions they would need to take if FNS determines that they have authorized more vendors than they can effectively manage.
Closed - Implemented
In its final Food Delivery Systems rule published on December 29, 2000, USDA adopted strong mandatory selection criteria and retained the State agency option to establish criteria to limit the number of vendors authorized. This action is sufficient to address the recommendation.
Department of Agriculture 2. To enhance USDA's ability to improve program integrity and encourage better efforts to prevent and detect fraud and abuse by state and local WIC agencies, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to work with the state WIC agencies and the National Association of WIC Directors to develop and implement cost-effective strategies for the states to use in collecting and maintaining information on cases of participant fraud and abuse, which would be periodically reported to FNS. Such information should include the nature of the fraud detected and the associated dollar losses.
Closed - Implemented
In December 2001, FNS presented a proposed plan of action for collection of participant fraud and abuse data to state representatives of the National Association of WIC Directors. FNS proposed that states report the recommended data along with other data submitted annually in "The Integrity Profile" (TIP). TIP contains data on states' efforts to monitor vendors, and on general program integrity measures. FNS has contracted to develop an automated system to collect the TIP data. FNS estimates that the states will begin using the new system to collect fraud and abuse data in October 2004. Fiscal year 2004 data will be reported to FNS in February 2006.
Department of Agriculture 3. To enhance USDA's ability to improve program integrity and encourage better efforts to prevent and detect fraud and abuse by state and local WIC agencies, the Secretary of Agriculture should direct the Administrator, FNS, to require state agencies to have a policy and procedures for addressing employee conflicts of interest.
Closed - Implemented
A proposed rule entitled "Miscellaneous Provisions" contains a provision to ensure that no conflicts of interest exist regarding state and local agency employees. The proposed rule was published on December 2, 2002. FNS is currently analyzing comments received on the proposed rule. FNS expects to publish the rule in final by September 30, 2003.

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