by Katherine Rodriguez, 31 Mar 2018 – Breitbart News
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service announced Thursday that it is hiring a “chief integrity officer” to prevent fraud in the nation’s food stamp program.
Brandon Lipps — the acting deputy undersecretary for USDA’s Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services — said that the chief integrity officer would oversee the food stamp program and suggest improvements to maintain the program’s integrity, so those who receive benefits are the ones who really need them.
“Where protection of taxpayer dollars is concerned – the job is never done,” Lipps said in a statement. “Today we are renewing our commitment to ensuring that our nutrition programs are run as effectively and efficiently as possible; increasing program integrity while maintaining the nutrition safety net for those truly in need.”
The USDA also announced that it would conduct a “third-party review” of all 15 nutrition assistance programs—including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC); National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs; and the Summer Food Service Program.
“Integrity is essential to meeting the mission of all FNS nutrition programs, now and into the future. We will continue to improve operations and outcomes in close collaboration with its state and local partners to combat waste, fraud, and abuse and best serve our participants and American taxpayers,” said Lipps.
The agency had rolled out several initiatives over the past few months aiming to reform the nation’s food stamp program.
The USDA announced in February that it would be rolling out its “Harvest Box” program to give food stamp recipients a box of food as part of their monthly benefits package and released a plan in January that would implement work requirements for food stamp recipients nationwide.
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UCOWF Editorial Comment: To all of us interested in program integrity, this is a significant announcement by the USDA. The environment to promote ideas to improve SNAP integrity was not very hospitable under the prior Undersecretary for Food and Nutrition Services.
Resting on the narrative that there was less than one percent of fraud in the SNAP program, many ideas promoted to FNS were rebuffed if the idea threatened SNAP enrollment levels. I believe the SNAP program, those that depend on it, and those whose taxes fund it suffered needlessly due to a dismissive posture adopted by top FNS officials when recommendations to shore up integrity were offered. This announcement by USDA is an acknowledgement that SNAP fraud and waste exists at a level significant enough to warrant a full-time position to explore ways to reduce it.
In a recent letter to members of Congress, UCOWF provided nearly two dozen recommended policy fixes that would result in marked improvements in the integrity of the SNAP program. The letter was also sent to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue. A more thorough discussion of those recommendations can be found in the article by Andrew McClenahan about SNAP integrity. Implementing any one of those recommendations would provide an improvement in the amount of fraud and waste that currently exists in the program; the more implemented, the greater the savings or recoveries.
As our focus is strengthening program integrity, UCOWF will continue advocating for reforms that will result in greater integrity in the SNAP program and others. Keeping program integrity front and center in any discussions of welfare reform will be a major initiative for us in the months ahead. USDA appointing a Chief Integrity Officer in the FNS signals a shift in the agency’s attitude towards program integrity, a shift that should allow UCOWF to have a more fruitful relationship with the agency from this point forward.
Jack Heacock – President