Grand jury: County among the highest in welfare over payments

Gilroy – A new report by the Santa Clara County Grand Jury slams
the county social services agency for doing little to ferret out
welfare fraud.

The Social Services Agency is not aggressive in pursuing
fraud,

the report states.

The county ranks among the lowest counties in pursuing fraud and
among the highest in fraud dollar overpayments.

Gilroy – A new report by the Santa Clara County Grand Jury slams the county social services agency for doing little to ferret out welfare fraud.

“The Social Services Agency is not aggressive in pursuing fraud,” the report states. “The county ranks among the lowest counties in pursuing fraud and among the highest in fraud dollar overpayments.”

According to the grand jury, Santa Clara County has the fourth-lowest referral rate in the state and lost more money to fraud – $1.98 million – than all but Sacramento and Los Angeles counties.

“With a very low referral rate for fraud investigations,” the report says, “one might expect very little fraud to be found.”

The grand jury blames the trouble on budget cuts to the fraud investigation unit in the district attorney’s office and lack of communication between county prosecutors and social services workers.

The report recommends that county supervisors direct the SSA to share more information with prosecutors and boost funding for the investigation unit.

Supervisor Don Gage said Tuesday he doesn’t support spending more money on the unit.

“We only have so many dollars to investigate welfare fraud and the county’s budget woes won’t allow us to do that,” Gage said. “The grand jury can tell us we’re not hitting it hard enough, and that’s great, but they’re not paying our bills.”

According to the report, county investigators looked into 151 fraud cases in 2002 and only 107 cases in 2004, after the investigation budget was cut by about 30 percent to $4.5 million.

The county handles more than 4,000 welfare cases in any given month.

Civil grand jury reports are not binding, but the county must respond.

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