SSA wins kudos for financial management

In the fourth of a series of hearings to review the financial management practices of government agencies, House Government Reform Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Steve Horn, R-Calif., Friday praised the Social Security Administration as a model.

Horn said the "lessons learned and best practices from the [SSA] could assist other federal agencies in financial management reform efforts."

Last week, the subcommittee also examined the management of the IRS and the Defense Department. Although SSA was the first agency to complete its fiscal 1997 audit and contract with an independent public accounting firm, Price Waterhouse, Horn noted that the audit did show "two instances of noncompliance with laws and regulations." SSA Inspector General David Williams said the agency has made resolving Price Waterhouse's findings "a top priority."

Williams also said the number of reported cases of potential fraud had risen to 18,000 in FY97--in part because of a special fraud reporting hotline--but added that the percentages attributed to agency programs remained constant.

Only 18 percent of the cases of reported fraud affect most Social Security retirement programs, while 60 percent are cases of "identity theft" of Social Security numbers. Another 22 percent affect the Supplemental Security Income program.

John Dyer, SSA's acting principal deputy commissioner, said fraud investigations have been stepped up with better computer matching and employee training.

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