An official government report released Friday admits that the Pigford “Black Farmers” Settlement was designed with no mechanism for objectively determining fraud but hid that shocking conclusion under pages of bureaucratic doublespeak.
“Burying the lede” is a journalistic term used to describe the act of hiding essential information by putting non-essentials in front of it. On December 7, 2012, the United States Government Accountability Office released report number GAO-13-69R, also known as “Civil Rights: Additional Actions in Pigford II Claims Process Could Reduce Risk of Improper Determinations.”
Just based on the title, you can already tell the report is needlessly wordy. This helps bury what should be the bigger story—that the Pigford settlement isn’t the mere victim of a few fraudsters but was, in fact, set up to make fraud not just rampant but also totally undetectable.
Breitbart News has been reporting for years now that the Pigford settlement allowed people to collect $50,000 just for claiming that they “attempted to farm” and that no other proof was needed. As a result, many claim that billions of dollars in fraudulent “attempted to farm” claims were paid out by the federal government. The new GAO report actually confirms what the late Andrew Breitbart pointed out time and again: the Pigford settlement is a massive swindle on the U.S. taxpayer, and it was designed that way from the start.
The GAO report’s conclusion seems like it bears good news; there are systems in place that would detect fraud. It says on Page 3:
Identifying and denying fraudulent or otherwise invalid claims among tens of thousands of claims submitted is a daunting task. The parties charged with carrying out the terms of the Pigford II settlement have designed and operated a system of internal control that, in general, provides reasonable assurance of identifying and denying fraudulent or otherwise invalid claims.
This “reasonable assurance” of denying fraud, however, is illusory. A tidbit buried in the middle of a wordy paragraph on the same page undermines this defense: “These design weaknesses, hence, cannot be modified by the implementing parties.”
Design weaknesses? Keep reading and you’ll find that it’s a “design weakness” that destroys the previous insistence on effective oversight.
For example, by the terms of the settlement agreement, most claims must be evaluated based solely on the information submitted by the claimants and, as a result, the adjudicator of these claims has no way of independently verifying that information.
Let’s go slowly through that paragraph. There are three main points it makes:
- “By terms of the settlement agreement” shows the fraud is baked right in. This is a feature, not a bug.
- “most claims must be evaluated based solely on the information submitted by the claimants” means that a majority of claims are judged based only on statements by the person who stands to collect a $50,000 check.
- “adjudicator of these claims has no way of independently verifying that information” means that there’s no way for the person judging the claim to check for fraud.
In other words, the lawyers and politicians who designed Pigford gave people judging a claim’s validity no objective way to determine whether it is actually fraudulent or not; they have to accept the claimant’s statement as truth. In a government payout program whose architects anticipated some level of fraudulent or duplicate claims, no one included oversight against such a contingency.