According to a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the government’s chief watchdog these days, largesse and fraud under the Lifeline Program (a.k.a. “Obamaphone”) is even worse than we thought.
Per the Washington Times:
“Some 10.6 million people have an Obamaphone, but 36 percent of them may not qualify, investigators said after sampling the population and finding a huge chunk of people couldn’t prove they were eligible.”
“More than 5,500 people were found to be enrolled for two phones, while the program was paying for nearly 6,400 phones for persons the government has listed as having died.”
Here’s where it gets more interesting. According to The Daily Caller, the GAO sent 19 investigators undercover to apply for Obamaphones using easily detectable fraudulent pretenses. In those cases, “we were approved to receive Lifeline services by 12 of the 19 Lifeline providers using fictitious eligibility documentation.”
In order to qualify for an Obamaphone, one simply needs to be on certain forms of government assistance, like SSI disability or food stamps.
However, for some strange reason, the Federal Communications Commission decided that the phone vendors (who profit off the program, mind you) should be the responsible parties for screening applicants.
Needless to say, that’s a big part of the problem, as it has all but ensured there is no diligence in the screening and verification process, whatsoever. I mean, in Georgia alone, an estimated 79 percent of individuals claimed to be on SSI when they applied for a phone, but acutally were not. And the national average of individuals isn’t much better, coming in at 64.5 percent.
It’s absolutely unreal that these numbers ever got to those points. All due to oversight, no less. And at the taxpayer’s dollars, too.
Additionally, the GAO report noted “that after basic eligibility checks were instituted, the cellphones-for-the-poor program shrunk by a third, from $2.2 billion to $1.5 billion. In the 30 days following the addition of meager but previously absent anti-fraud measures, monthly payments dropped $40 million.”
The FCC has promised to try and clean up the program, but…it’s promised that before, too, even prior to the GAO releasing this staggering report.
Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath here, but the program needs to be changed, if not eliminated altogether. The American taxpayers deserve better.