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PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (February 19, 1999 - PACNEWS)---American Samoa Governor Tauese Sunia has ordered an investigation into the handling of reimbursement payments for the federally funded Food Stamp Program after three audits showed improprieties associated with monthly vouchers.

The Food Stamp Program disburses monthly food vouchers for those in need. Recipients redeem their vouchers at selected stores, which then submit their coupons to the government for reimbursement.

The audits have found that the dollar amount paid by the department administering the Food Stamp Program for food vouchers each month was much higher than the value of the food vouchers issued.

Other discrepancies uncovered by the audits include food vouchers being redeemed for cash or issued to ghost recipients and ineligible people.

The Governor's Office reported that Tauese wants the Food Stamp investigation to be given high priority.

He has directed that the Task Force on White Collar Crime, which is conducting the investigation, be beefed up with the additional resources to assure a focused effort aimed at preserving evidence and pursuing criminal charges against any wrongdoing.

The American Samoa Government receives US$ 5.3 million each year for the food voucher program. The average monthly voucher for recipients is US$ 150.

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