Friday, October 2, 2009


From today's Austin American Statesman, this article discusses the fraud deterrent effect of fingerprinting applicants for food stamps, and if it is worth the delay it may be causing in processing (Department of Agriculture says it isn't).
There are lessons to be learned at Texas HHSC.
Starting here:

The electronic fingerprinting program costs $3 million a year: $1.6 million for a contract with Cogent Systems for the imaging and $1.4 million for state workers' time. The state and federal governments split the cost.

Last year, the fingerprint program led to the state investigating just four applicants for fraud.

But state officials say it's impossible to know how many people are deterred from applying multiple times because of the fingerprinting.

But later in the article:

The state estimates that the deterrent effect of fingerprinting saves $6 million to $11 million a year.

I imagine the latter figure could have been pulled from cost justification of the project, or from the vendor's response to the RFP, or even the LBB when the law was passed. (Does the cost include the initial implementation of the system?) But measuring the actual decrease in applicant fraud is a solvable problem. To say that there is "no way of knowing" the deterrent effect is not defensible. If they never measured a baseline of applicant fraud to begin with, how would they have known how much to spend on an anti-fraud measure? If they don't try to measure the change post implementation, how do they know it's working?

On the other, more cynical, hand, why should they care? They are in compliance with the state law, and the system was implemented. The only people who suffer are the citizens who need help to buy food. Folks who may not be able to take off from their minimum wage job, or don't have the transportation, to go be fingerprinted. Measuring the dignity of your customers is harder than measuring your fraud deterrence cost.

You tell 'em Stevie.

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