Legal Services Corp. Inflating Cases

April 8, 1999

The federally-funded agency that provides free legal aid to poor people has been overstating its work by hundreds of thousands of cases, reports the Associated Press. Officials of the Legal Services Corp. blamed local bookkeeping errors.

Legal Services reported having 1.93 million clients in 1997.

But a review of just five of the agency's 269 regional programs found officials overstated their caseloads by at least 90,000.

Legal Services expects to report to Congress that it handled only 1.73 million cases in 1998 -- or 200,000 fewer than it claimed for 1997.

Case numbers were inflated by including telephone calls from people who did not get legal help or were ineligible for it, double-counting cases and counting outdated cases.

A legal aid group in Lakeland, Fla., for instance, reported servicing eight times the number of cases it actually worked on. The executive director there blamed computer error.

About 70 percent of nearly 73,000 closed cases reported by regional programs in San Francisco, San Diego, Miami and Northern Virginia were not valid, officials found.

Legal Services president John McKay admits that the 1997 count was "slightly off," but contends it was "not significant" in terms of overall cases and services.

Legal Services handed out $283 million in taxpayer money to local programs last year, and its funding was increased to $300 million for 1999.

Source: Associated Press, "Legal Services Overstates Aid to Poor," Washington Times, April 8, 1999.

 

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