THE INSPECTOR GENERAL
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
SCOTT COUNTY COMMUNITY SERVICES
DEPARTMENT, A FEE-FOR-SERVICE
REPRESENTATIVE PAYEE FOR THE
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
June 2006 A-07-06-16040
We improve SSA programs and operations and protect them against fraud, waste, and abuse by conducting independent and objective audits, evaluations, and investigations. We provide timely, useful, and reliable information and advice to Administration officials, the Congress, and the public.
The Inspector General Act created independent audit and investigative units, called the Office of Inspector General (OIG). The mission of the OIG, as spelled out in the Act, is to:
Conduct and supervise independent and objective audits and investigations relating to agency programs and operations.
Promote economy, effectiveness, and efficiency within the agency.
Prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse in agency programs and operations.
Review and make recommendations regarding existing and proposed legislation and regulations relating to agency programs and operations.
Keep the agency head and the Congress fully and currently informed of problems in agency programs and operations.
To ensure objectivity, the IG Act empowers the IG with:
Independence to determine what reviews to perform.
Access to all information necessary for the reviews.
Authority to publish findings and recommendations based on the reviews.
By conducting independent and objective audits, investigations, and evaluations, we are agents of positive change striving for continuous improvement in the Social Security Administration's programs, operations, and management and in our own office.
Date: June 5, 2006 Refer To:
To: Michael W. Grochowski
From: Inspector General
Subject: Scott County Community Services Department, A Fee-for-Service Representative Payee for the Social Security Administration (A-07-06-16040)
Our objectives were to determine whether the Scott County Community Services Department (CSD) (1) had effective safeguards over the receipt and disbursement of Social Security benefits and (2) ensured Social Security benefits were used and accounted for in accordance with the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) policies and procedures.
Some individuals cannot manage or direct the management of their finances because of their youth or mental and/or physical impairments. Congress granted SSA the authority to appoint representative payees to receive and manage these beneficiaries’ payments. A representative payee may be an individual or an organization. SSA selects representative payees for Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) beneficiaries or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients when representative payments would serve the individuals’ interests. Representative payees are responsible for managing benefits in the best interest of the beneficiary. Refer to Appendix B for additional Representative Payee responsibilities.
CSD is a county government agency that has operated for more than 20 years as a fee-for-service organizational representative payee for individuals who received payments under SSA’s OASDI and SSI programs. In 2005, a former CSD employee was convicted of diverting SSA monies from beneficiaries due to an improper segregation of duties relating to the disbursement of benefits. As a result, SSA’s Kansas City Regional Office requested that we perform an audit of CSD. Refer to Appendix C for the Scope and Methodology.
RESULTS OF REVIEW
We found CSD generally had adequate internal controls for the receipt and disbursement of Social Security benefits. Particularly, CSD had adequate segregation of duties, proper authorization for transactions, and adequate physical safeguards over assets and records. However, we found two areas where CSD needs to improve its procedures to ensure Social Security benefits are used and accounted for in accordance with SSA’s policies and procedures. Specifically, CSD needs to:
Maintain adequate documentation to support expenses, and
Properly title the bank account used to hold beneficiary funds.
BENEFICIARIES’ EXPENSES LACKED SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION
CSD did not maintain supporting documentation (receipts) for the disbursement of approximately $88,000 in SSA benefits. Of this amount, approximately $72,000 was disbursed directly to beneficiaries for personal allowances and personal needs. The remaining $16,000 was paid to vendors or individuals other than the beneficiary for personal needs items such as utilities, clothing, and food.
SSA requires representative payees to keep accurate and complete records to show the amount of benefits received and how the money was used. Supporting documentation for beneficiary expenses was lacking primarily because CSD did not require the collection or retention of receipts for personal allowances or for most personal needs as the following discusses.
A personal allowance is money provided directly to the beneficiary for food and personal items. To determine the amount and frequency of personal allowances for beneficiaries that do not reside in nursing home facilities, CSD meets with the beneficiaries to establish a budget. During this meeting, CSD ensures the beneficiaries’ shelter needs are met then it establishes the amount, purpose, and frequency of personal allowance checks.
During our audit period, CSD disbursed approximately $59,000 in personal allowance checks. Of this amount, approximately $54,000 was disbursed directly to beneficiaries while approximately $5,000 was disbursed to nursing homes on behalf of the beneficiaries. However, CSD did not require the beneficiaries or nursing home facilities to provide receipts to show how the personal allowance money was spent. Therefore, beneficiaries and nursing homes were able to use the funds at their own discretion. In fact, we found that 9 of the 50 beneficiaries included in our review received 40 percent or more of their benefits in the form of personal allowances as illustrated in Table 1.
Benefits Disbursed as Personal Allowances
Percent of Benefits Disbursed Number of Beneficiaries Benefits Disbursed
Less than 30% 34 $25,639
30% to 40% 7 14,257
40% or more 9 18,701
Total 50 $58,597
SSA deemed the beneficiaries under CSD’s care incapable of managing or directing the management of their funds. However, CSD released a significant portion of benefits to some beneficiaries without requiring documentation of how the money was spent. CSD stated these funds were released to beneficiaries to provide a sense of financial independence and it hoped the beneficiaries would use the funds in their best interests. Although it is not against SSA policy to promote financial independence, we believe CSD’s insufficient oversight of the use of personal allowances places the funds at risk for misuse. In addition, without evidence to show how personal allowances are used, CSD is not performing one of its primary responsibilities of ensuring beneficiaries’ needs are met and benefits are used in the best interest of the beneficiary.
Personal needs monies are requested by the beneficiary for expenses above and beyond the amount received as a personal allowance. CSD requires beneficiaries to request personal needs money in person. Also, the beneficiaries must complete a form that requires an explanation of the intended use of the money and their signature. Beneficiaries requested money for items such as food, clothing, travel expenses, and gifts.
Our review found that CSD did not always have receipts to support how beneficiaries used their personal needs monies. For personal needs requests of $100 or less, CSD did not require the beneficiaries to provide any documentation (receipts) to show how the monies were spent. During our audit period, CSD provided beneficiaries approximately $8,000 for personal needs requests of $100 or less.
While CSD did have a policy that required submission of receipts for personal needs requests in excess of $100, it did not consistently adhere to the policy. Specifically, CSD did not collect receipts for 82 percent of the amount it disbursed for personal needs requests that exceeded the $100 limit as shown in Table 2.
Benefits Disbursed as Personal Needs Requests over $100
Personal Needs Requests Number of Transactions Total Amount of Transactions Percent of Total Transactions
Receipts Provided 5 $1,046 18%
Receipts Not Provided 18 $4,787 82%
Total 23 $5,833 100%
SSA requires representative payees to keep accurate and complete records to show how benefits are used. Receipt maintenance is a safeguard CSD should have in place for all personal needs requests regardless of the monetary value to verify that items purchased by beneficiaries were reasonable, that is, the items purchased were needed and appropriate for the beneficiary.
CSD Policy Changes for Personal Allowances and Needs
During the course of our review, CSD implemented new policies that require beneficiaries who receive personal allowance or personal needs checks of $50 or more to provide receipts to support how the monies were spent. CSD also notified nursing homes that supporting documentation must be provided on a monthly basis for personal allowances for beneficiaries residing in the facility.
CSD’s new policies regarding personal allowances and personal needs requests provide improved oversight of how beneficiaries spend personal allowance and personal needs monies. However, CSD did not consistently follow its previous receipt maintenance policies. Therefore, lowering the threshold for receipt maintenance will only be effective if CSD adheres to its new policies and collects the requested receipts from the beneficiaries or nursing home facilities.
BANK ACCOUNT NOT PROPERLY TITLED
The bank account used by CSD was not titled in accordance with SSA instructions because it did not reflect ownership of the account by SSA beneficiaries. Specifically, the bank account currently used by CSD for SSA beneficiary funds is titled “Community Services Dept.” This title does not reflect ownership of the account by SSA beneficiaries. According to SSA instructions, a representative payee may establish collective checking and savings accounts to hold monies belonging to multiple beneficiaries. However, to protect beneficiaries’ funds, the account title must show that the representative payee has only a fiduciary interest in the account. CSD stated it was unaware the bank account was not properly titled and plans to re-title the account.
The improper titling of the bank account results in beneficiary funds being underinsured. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures bank deposits up to $100,000 per individual account. FDIC provides additional coverage of $100,000 per individual for collective bank accounts if the relationship between the account holder and its clients is properly shown in the account title. FDIC recognizes a claim for insurance coverage based on a fiduciary relationship only if bank deposit account records clearly define the relationship. As of August 2005, the bank account balance for SSA beneficiaries was approximately $453,000. Since the bank account is not properly titled, beneficiary funds are underinsured by $353,000, the difference between the bank account balance and the FDIC insured amount.
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
CSD generally had adequate internal controls for the receipt and disbursement of Social Security benefits. However, we found that CSD did not maintain adequate documentation to support beneficiary expenses and did not title the bank account in accordance with SSA’s instructions. During the course of our review, CSD strengthened its policies over receipt maintenance; however, the new policy will only be as strong as its ability to enforce the collection of supporting documentation for those expenses.
We recommend SSA instruct CSD to:
1. Maintain sufficient documentation to show that personal allowance and personal needs monies are used in the best interest of the beneficiaries.
2. Title its checking account to reflect beneficiary ownership interest.
AGENCY AND REPRESENTATIVE PAYEE COMMENTS
SSA and CSD agreed with our recommendations and reported that appropriate actions were implemented. See Appendix D for the full text of SSA’s comments and Appendix E for the full text of CSD’s comments.
Patrick P. O’Carroll, Jr.
APPENDIX A – Acronyms
APPENDIX B – Representative Payee Responsibilities
APPENDIX C – Scope and Methodology
APPENDIX D – Agency Comments
APPENDIX E – Representative Payee Comments
APPENDIX F – OIG Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments
C.F.R. Code of Federal Regulations
CSD Scott County Community Services Department
FDIC Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
OASDI Old-Age, Survivor, and Disability Insurance
POMS Program Operations Manual System
RPR Representative Payee Accounting Report
RPS Representative Payee System
SSA Social Security Administration
SSI Supplemental Security Income
U.S.C. United States Code
Representative Payee Responsibilities
Representative payees are responsible for using benefits to serve the beneficiary’s best interests. The responsibilities include:
Determine the beneficiary’s current needs for day-to-day living and use his or her payments to meet those needs;
Conserve and invest benefits not needed to meet the beneficiary’s current needs;
Maintain accounting records of how the benefits are received and used;
Report events to the Social Security Administration (SSA) that may affect the individual’s entitlement or benefit payment amount;
Report any changes in circumstances that would affect their performance as a representative payee;
Provide SSA an annual Representative Payee Accounting Report to account for benefits spent and invested;
Return any payments to SSA for which the beneficiary is not entitled;
Return conserved funds to SSA when you are no longer the representative payee for the beneficiary; and
Be aware of any other income Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries may have and monitor their conserved funds to ensure they do not exceed resource limits.
Scope and Methodology
Our audit covered the period September 1, 2004 through August 31, 2005. To accomplish our objectives, we:
Reviewed applicable Federal regulations, the Social Security Act and Social Security Administration (SSA) policies and procedures pertaining to representative payees.
Contacted SSA regional office and field office staffs to obtain background information about the Scott County Community Services Department (CSD) performance.
Obtained from SSA’s Representative Payee System (RPS) a list of individuals who were in CSD’s care as of August 31, 2005 or who left CSD’s care after
September 1, 2004.
Obtained from CSD a list of individuals who were in its care and had received SSA funds as of August 31, 2005 or who left its care after September 1, 2004.
Compared and reconciled the RPS list to CSD’s list to identify the population of SSA beneficiaries who were in the CSD’s care from September 1, 2004 through
August 31, 2005.
Reviewed CSD’s internal controls over the receipt and disbursement of Social Security benefits.
Randomly selected a sample of 50 beneficiaries from a population of
503 beneficiaries in CSD’s care from September 1, 2004 through August 31, 2005.
Performed the following tests for the 50 randomly selected beneficiaries:
Compared and reconciled benefit amounts received according to the CSD’s records to benefit amounts paid according to SSA’s records.
Reviewed the CSD’s accounting records to determine whether benefits were properly spent or conserved on the individual’s behalf.
Traced a sample of recorded expenses to source documents and examined the underlying documentation for reasonableness and authenticity.
Interviewed a non-random sample of 10 beneficiaries to determine whether their basic needs were being met.
Reviewed the Representative Payee Accounting Reports (RPR) for 27 of the 50 beneficiaries in our sample to determine whether CSD properly reported to SSA how benefits were used.
Reviewed a non-random sample of four Representative Payee Applications (Form SSA-11-BK) to evaluate the completeness and appropriateness of the information provided on the applications.
We determined computer-processed data to be reliable for our intended use. Further, any data limitations were minor in the context of this assignment, and the use of the data should not lead to an incorrect or unintentional message. We tested certain data elements of data extracts generated from the Agency's RPS. We completed tests to determine the completeness, accuracy and validity of the data. These tests allowed us to assess the reliability of the data and achieve our audit objectives.
We performed our fieldwork in Kansas City, Missouri and Davenport, Iowa, between September 2005 and January 2006. We conducted our audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.
May 23, 2006
Signed Draft Report (A-07-06-16040) Scott County Community Services - Kansas City Response
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the attached OIG Draft Audit Report for Scott County Community Services Department. The Kansas City Region agrees with the recommendations outlined on the draft report. Regional and field office staff had a conference call with the payee to further discuss the policy related to OIG’s recommendations. As a result, the payee has already implemented a different process for controlling receipts to maintain better control of their expenditures.
Staff with questions may contact Kathy Kazee, Center for Programs Support at 816-936-5643.
Michael W. Grochowski
Representative Payee Comments
May 16, 2006
Subject: Audit Response
We received a copy of the draft audit report on April 24, 2006. Our office understands the objectives of the audit and the need for the audit.
Scott County Community Services has taken many steps over the past two years so as to prevent another incident of theft. During the actual audit, your staff gave suggestions and clarified policies for us. We have revised our internal policies regarding needed documentation to support expenses. We know this may be difficult for some of our clients due to limited cognitive ability, but we continue to look for new ways to get the needed documentation. Staff have created files and envelopes to help the clients when returning with receipts. We understand the importance of being responsible for all funds and ensuring funds are used in the best interest of the beneficiaries. A supervisor in our office is monitoring the documentation requirements. We have had contact with the bank regarding the account used to hold the beneficiary funds and how to rename it. We appreciate the input and suggestions from your staff during the audit. We really want to make our Representative Payee Program the best it can be.
Lori A. Elam
Scott County Community Services Director
OIG Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments
Mark Bailey, Director, Kansas City Audit Division (816) 936-5591
Ron Bussell, Audit Manager (816) 936-5577
In addition to those named above:
Karis Gaukel, Auditor
Deborah Taylor, Auditor
For additional copies of this report, please visit our web site at www.ssa.gov/oig or contact the Office of the Inspector General’s Public Affairs Specialist at (410) 965-3218. Refer to Common Identification Number A 07 06 16040.
Commissioner of Social Security
Office of Management and Budget, Income Maintenance Branch
Chairman and Ranking Member, Committee on Ways and Means
Chief of Staff, Committee on Ways and Means
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Social Security
Majority and Minority Staff Director, Subcommittee on Social Security
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Human Resources
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Budget, House of Representatives
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Governmental Affairs
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives
Chairman and Ranking Minority, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies, Committee on Appropriations, U.S. Senate
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Finance
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Social Security and Family Policy
Chairman and Ranking Minority Member, Senate Special Committee on Aging
Social Security Advisory Board
Scott County Community Services Department
Overview of the Office of the Inspector General
The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) is comprised of our Office of Investigations (OI), Office of Audit (OA), Office of the Chief Counsel to the Inspector General (OCCIG), and Office of Resource Management (ORM). To ensure compliance with policies and procedures, internal controls, and professional standards, we also have a comprehensive Professional Responsibility and Quality Assurance program.
Office of Audit
OA conducts and/or supervises financial and performance audits of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) programs and operations and makes recommendations to ensure program objectives are achieved effectively and efficiently. Financial audits assess whether SSA’s financial statements fairly present SSA’s financial position, results of operations, and cash flow. Performance audits review the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness of SSA’s programs and operations. OA also conducts short-term management and program evaluations and projects on issues of concern to SSA, Congress, and the general public.
Office of Investigations
OI conducts and coordinates investigative activity related to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in SSA programs and operations. This includes wrongdoing by applicants, beneficiaries, contractors, third parties, or SSA employees performing their official duties. This office serves as OIG liaison to the Department of Justice on all matters relating to the investigations of SSA programs and personnel. OI also conducts joint investigations with other Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies.
Office of the Chief Counsel to the Inspector General
OCCIG provides independent legal advice and counsel to the IG on various matters, including statutes, regulations, legislation, and policy directives. OCCIG also advises the IG on investigative procedures and techniques, as well as on legal implications and conclusions to be drawn from audit and investigative material. Finally, OCCIG administers the Civil Monetary Penalty program.
Office of Resource Management
ORM supports OIG by providing information resource management and systems security. ORM also coordinates OIG’s budget, procurement, telecommunications, facilities, and human resources. In addition, ORM is the focal point for OIG’s strategic planning function and the development and implementation of performance measures required by the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993.