From the Document: "The Farm Service Agency's (FSA) Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) assists landowners in restoring land used in agricultural production when damaged by a natural disaster. Congress appropriated $400 million to ECP to address damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria; wildfires occurring in 2017; and other natural disasters. We found that FSA needs to strengthen its internal controls within the ECP. First, producers are typically required to apply within the signup period to ensure eligibility and identify qualifying damage. However, we found that FSA issued more than $700,000 in ECP payments for 15 of 40 applications without properly documenting concurrence or when FSA should not have concurred with waiving the prior approval rule. Second, we found that, in all four counties we reviewed, district directors did not sufficiently document or timely review ECP applications. Additionally, in three counties, county executive directors did not perform spot checks to verify practice maintenance and cost documentation. As a result, the county committee may have been presented ineligible applications for approval. Additionally, because FSA did not complete spot checks, FSA could not ensure producers completed restoration practices on applications totaling more than $1.9 million. Third, FSA processed cost-share payments for 14 of 40 applications using insufficient documentation, included ineligible costs, or calculated cost-share reimbursements incorrectly. As a result, we identified more than $557,000 potential improper payments. FSA generally concurred with our findings and recommendations, and we accepted management decision for 9 of the 10 recommendations."
Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General, Audit Report 03702-0002-23