Audit says La. lax in its oversight of WIC program

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana Legislative Audit report on the Women's, Infants, & Children (WIC) program is not kind to the Office of Public Health who administers the program.

The audit concludes Office of Public Health (OPH) assigned 43 percent of WIC vendors to an incorrect tier. As a result, vendors may have overcharged the program an estimated $655,000. OPH also did not verify the accuracy of prices vendors charged for WIC food items, among other findings.

"Either it's state dollars of federal dollars either way it's taxpayer dollars and we have zero tolerance for any misuse of that money and we just want to make sure we get it right and were operating at the best possible level for the state of Louisiana," says J.T. Lane, Assistant Secretary for Public Health.

"There are a lot of transactions that transpire between the federal government, state government, participants and vendors. So we asked the auditors, we wanted to make sure our program is running effectively and the auditors provide us with a great management tool to make change," says Lane.

Lane says the Department of Health and Hospital inspectors can double duty as WIC inspectors as well. "What we did was talk to our chief inspector and we got the WIC director together and we developed a plan to actually have our health inspectors who are already in these vendor locations two to four times a year. The USDA requires that we might do monitoring visits twice a year and so were in the midst of developing a final plan and it will be implemented very shortly," says Lane.

The Legislative Auditors office audit was requested by the Department of Health and Hospitals.

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