Auditors also reportedly found lax and inconsistent practices by government regulators. State officials say they’re moving quickly to correct those issues.
The Childcare and Parent Services program helps low-income parents with child care costs. It also subsidizes child care for foster children after school and in the summer.
Among concerns cited by auditors: 699 people received $2.4 million in combined child care subsidies in 2010-2011, although records show that each was exceeding the income eligibility requirements by an average of $5,366.
In one instance, the state paid $46,000 over five years to help pay day care costs for a working mother of two who claimed to be earning $17,680 a year, the audit report states. The woman probably would not have been eligible for it if her caseworker had contacted her employer or looked at Labor Department records, which showed that she earned $55,360 in at least one of those years, auditors reported.
State auditors also found that the program lacks a comprehensive system of internal controls to effectively identify improper payments, questionable eligibility, fraud or abuse.
“There was absolutely not the level of performance we would expect,” said Bobby Cagle, the state agency head who took charge of the program last July.
Efforts will be made to recoup any money that was improperly paid out, and a committee of up to 45 child care providers and advocates will be convened over the next few months to analyze existing policies and recommend any needed changes, said Cagle, commissioner of Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.
Cagle said he expects the audit findings to result in further investigations and some criminal prosecutions.
The program last year was funded with about $54 million in state money and the rest from the federal government.
Officials with the state Department of Audits and Accounts said they decided to closely examine Georgia’s CAPS program after a federal agency reported problems in similar programs in several states.