KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Money meant to help eligible Missouri families for food instead went to prisoners, the deceased and people living out of state, according to a report the state auditor released Tuesday.
Nicole Galloway studied how the Department of Social Services oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program from the 2015-2016 fiscal year. It showed the department received thousands of alerts about suspicious transactions but didn’t follow up on them.
Most of the suspicious activity involved recipients spending their allocation in states other than Missouri. A total of $16 million was spent exclusively out of state for 90 or more straight days.
Thirty-nine benefit recipients used their money outside Missouri for 700 or more consecutive days.
In nearly 3,700 cases, a person used the benefits of someone more than 30 days after the original recipient had died. In another 2,300 cases, the beneficiaries were incarcerated (and thus ineligible) during some portion of the time they received assistance.
"This audit found hundreds of thousands of SNAP transactions that raised red flags, but were not seriously investigated by the Department of Social Services," Auditor Galloway said in a statement. "Misuse or abuse of these benefits means that taxpayer dollars are wasted and resources are not going to Missouri families in need."
Galloway’s report also had recommendations for the Department of Social Services, including improving the way the department tracks transactions and using more of a data analytics approach to identify fraud and misuse.
Editor's note: A Missouri Department of Social Services spokesperson originally misidentified the time period of the study as the 2016-2017 fiscal year. The study actually spanned the 2015-2016 fiscal year. The story has been updated.