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DHS disputes claims from Tulsa contractor


OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The state is questioning more than half the claims a Tulsa contractor has submitted to the Department of Human Services for helping needy families open and manage savings accounts, according to a published report.

At issue is the legitimacy of $314,259 in claims submitted by Community Action Project of Tulsa County from March 2001 through June 30, The Daily Oklahoman reported Wednesday.

Most of the questionable claims were submitted for clients who never opened savings accounts, says an internal audit report prepared by the department's office of inspector general.

``What they did was submit more claims than there were clients who opened accounts,'' said Judy Landrum, internal audit director.

The Tulsa contractor disputes that opening savings accounts was a requirement for being paid.

``We reject the basis for your contention that there have been overcharges,'' Steven Dow, executive director, wrote in a letter responding to the audit.

The Tulsa corporation says it should be reimbursed for eligible clients who filled out applications and signed up for the program but had not opened accounts.

DHS has withheld payment of $132,251 on the final bill submitted by Community Action Project and is seeking repayment of $182,008 in alleged overcharges.

The program is called Individual Development Accounts. It is federally funded but administered through DHS.

Mary Stalnaker, DHS division director for family support services, said many needy families lack financial management skills.

The contractor is paid to help those families by getting them to attend money management classes and helping them open and manage savings accounts.

As an incentive to save, the Individual Development Accounts program offers to match up to $500 a year in savings when the money is withdrawn if it is used to buy a home, start a business or pursue a post-secondary education.

Clients for the program were recruited from current and former participants in the state's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
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