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VOL. 44 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 3, 2020

Tennessee audit finds fraud in low-income kid's meal program

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Several organizations tasked with feeding low-income children in Tennessee billed the state for meals they did not serve, a state audit found.

According to the report released Monday by Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, four Tennessee operators participating in a food subsidy program "displayed a clear pattern of not following the rules" but the state "allowed the sponsors to return to the program year after year and continue to claim high-dollar reimbursements."

The audit added that Tennessee's Department of Human Services has "failed to establish robust controls" for questionable meal claims, and urged the agency to act in order to prevent more fraud. The latest audit is part of a series of reports done in the last five years that details fraud in federal food subsidy programs administered by the state.

One operator, New Beginnings International Ministry, billed the state's Department of Human Services over $34,000 during the summer of 2019, including nearly $2,500 for two days where inspectors found no children at the site.

The Tennessean reported representatives from the organization could not be reached for comment. The audit also called into question over $28,000 claimed by Nashville's Greater Harvest Church in the last two years. Other operators under scrutiny for their claims are South Parkway East and Riverdale Kiddie learning centers in Memphis.

Since Tennessee is slated to receive more money from Congress, State Senator Jeff Yarbro said the state has to be more aggressive in making sure people who need the subsidies are able to get it.

A spokesman for the state's Department of Human Services said Monday the agency did not review the audits and could not provide comment.

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