WASHINGTON, May 30, 2012- USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) needs to implement more effective second-party reviews over the manual calculation of Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments Program (SURE), according to a new USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG) report released last week.

Based on a review of 122 FSA payments, totaling $5.2 million, OIG identified errors in 14 of these payments. Ten errors represented SURE program payments.

“These errors occurred primarily because FSA did not have effective internal controls over the manual SURE Program payment calculation process,” noted OIG in the report. 

The report pointed out that documentation for the SURE program errors included a second-party reviewer initial and date, indicating that a second-party review had been completed; however, the second-party reviews conducted by FSA personnel did not detect the data input errors.  

In fiscal year 2010, OIG performed similar work in recalculating FSA program payments and identified 18 improper payments, totaling $61,714. At that time, OIG recommended that FSA develop and implement effective internal controls of the manual SURE Program payment calculation process.

Due to the reduction in the number and dollar amount of improper payments during fiscal year 2011 audit, OIG recommended that controls should be further strengthened to prevent these payment errors. 

The OIG and FSA agreed that the 14 errors resulted in improper payments of $54,408. Based on the results of these 122 sampled payments, OIG estimated the total dollars improperly paid is about $28 million.

In response to the audit, Philip Sharp, Director of the Operations Review and Analysis staff, offered the following:

“Corrective action was taken to address the deficiencies. FSA Notice SURE-25 was issued to State and County offices on April 12, 2012. The notice identified the data input errors found during the audit for the SURE program and also stressed the importance of diligence for second party reviews. It also reiterated the management tools available in FSA Handbook 1-SURE to help identify deficiencies during a review.

On April 12, 2012, the audit and findings, along with Notice SURE-25, were discussed during the biweekly DAFP conference call with all State Offices. SURE State Office Program Specialists were responsible for relaying the information to the County Offices.”

To view the full audit report, click here.  


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