According to the bipartisan watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a recent report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that in 2000, two-thirds, or 833 of Head Start grantees had at least one error in the management of the program, finances and/or bookkeeping. When GAO reviewed these same programs three years later, more than half continued to have disparities in their finances.
Head Start is run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF). According to the GAO report, lack of oversight by ACF is to blame for enduring abuses. For example, when program irregularities occur, ACFs policy is to allow the center to simply declare that the problem has been fixed, rather than scrutinize the centers records to ensure the disparity is corrected and that its records are orderly and accurate.
When Head Start was up for reauthorization two years ago, the administration proposed handing over control to the states in an attempt to straighten out the mess that federal bureaucrats had made of the program, said Tom Schatz, CAGW president. But members of Congress predictably resorted to the sky is falling antics claiming the reorganization would dismantle the program. Consequently, this important program is still rancid with waste, fraud and abuse typical of so many oversized bureaucratic machines.
Some of the most alarming cases included: the indictment of both a Maryland Head Start director on charges that she stole $335,777 and a South Dakota woman for embezzling $185, 000 from a Head Start service provider; and a New Mexico program suspected of defrauding the program of $526,000. The latter program received a $2 million federal grant while the fraud case was still pending. While not listed in the report, audits have revealed that the current chief of the federal Head Start program, Windy Hill, mismanaged $140,000 and improperly received $30,000 in bonuses and perquisites while she was the executive director of Texas Head Start.
If Congress is serious about accountability for Head Starta $7 billion programthey need to overhaul the program entirely, Schatz said. DHS has squandered countless opportunities to fulfill its oversight duties; it is seemingly incapable of reconciling the shocking improprieties present at all levels of this program. The time has come for Congress to intervene, answer to taxpayers, restructure this program, and ensure there is no more corruption.