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McCaskill Requests Forensic Audit of Lifeline Program

Senator continues push for reform in letter to government’s top auditor

May 14, 2013

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, who has led the effort to reform the Lifeline government phone subsidy program, today called on the U.S. Comptroller General to conduct a forensic audit of the program to help prevent recurring and significant levels of fraud and abuse.

"There have been problems with this program since it was expanded to include prepaid wireless providers, and it's time we got to the bottom of what's working and what's broken," said McCaskill, former Missouri State Auditor and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. "There's an unacceptable amount of waste and fraud in this program-and if we can't end the waste and fraud, we need to end the program."

In 2011, McCaskill urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide stronger oversight of the little-scrutinized federal program-which provides subsidies to phone companies-after she received a solicitation at her home for a free cell phone from a participating provider in the Lifeline program. The mailer did not require documentation for proof of eligibility. McCaskill is not eligible for the program.

Following those demands, the FCC issued new orders aimed at addressing waste, fraud, and abuse in the program.

"According to recent reports, however, the program continues to experience substantial fraud and weak management controls in assessing the eligibility of program applicants," today's letter from McCaskill to Gene Dodaro reads.

Last year, in a letter to the FCC, McCaskill requested detailed information on the program's contracts, including documents related to the agreement between the FCC and the companies responsible for managing Lifeline and the number, value and scope of contracts. McCaskill also offered an amendment to the recent Senate Budget resolution aimed at ending the controversial program.

The Lifeline program is funded by the Universal Service Fund (USF), which receives its resources from a fee telephone users pay on their phone bills. The FCC oversees the USF and, accordingly, the Lifeline program.

A copy of McCaskill's letter can be found on her website, HERE.

Read more about McCaskill's fight for stronger accountability in Washington, HERE.

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