In October 2012, Catherine Leahy Scott was appointed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo as the Acting New York State Welfare Inspector General. The New York State Office of the Welfare Inspector General (OWIG), as established by §74 of the New York State Executive Law, is tasked with maintaining the integrity of New York State's public assistance programs. Specifically, the Welfare Inspector General is responsible for conducting investigations of fraud, abuse or illegal acts perpetrated within local social services districts and by beneficiaries of public assistance services. Additionally, the Welfare Inspector General is charged with recommending policies relating to the prevention and detection of fraud and abuse, and to monitor the implementation of those recommendations.
In addition to its extensive fraud investigations, OWIG is equally dedicated to fraud prevention. OWIG's early detection efforts help curtail the payment of unearned benefits which yield significant savings to New York State. OWIG also conducts proactive initiatives aimed at the early detection and prevention of fraud, and partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement, and with local social services districts, to investigate and prosecute fraudulent schemes.
OWIG continues to raise awareness of public assistance fraud, educate stakeholders, and generate increased detection and reporting of fraud. OWIG participates in several public assistance fraud task forces, whose members include social services and law enforcement personnel, as well as corporate entities. The Welfare Inspector General frequently provides public training to stakeholders regarding investigative techniques and ethical considerations in public assistance fraud investigations.
The Office of the Welfare Inspector General investigates fraud, abuse and illegal acts involving social services programs and funds administered and funded by New York State, the federal government, and local social services districts, or by contractors or recipients of public assistance services.
These programs include several state and federal public assistance programs including: Family Assistance, Safety Net Assistance, Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicaid.