The D.C. Department of Human Resources has ordered a Shaw community credit union to stop selling food stamps after DHR and federal officials said a preliminary audit revealed that an estimated $60,000 worth of the food stamp coupons are unaccounted for.
Officers of the Fides Credit Union, at 1722 7th St. NW., closed the credit union office to customers May 3 and announced the institution will remain closed until May 16 so that officials can check each depositor's account, said Woodrow Hatcher, the newly appointed acting manager.
Food stamp services at teh credit union were discontinued "because they had an outstanding indebtedness to the U.S. Department of Agriculture," said Ulysses Banks, DHR deputy administrator of payments assistance and the person responsible for the operation of the city's food stamp program.
Lewis Wipert, acting chief of the contract review division of DHR, said his office recommended on March 29 that Fides' right to sell food stamps be suspended after a preliminary audit found "substantial discrepancies in their (food stamp) inventory."
The $60,000 in unaccounted stamps includes a reported $23,000 in stamps stolen from the credit union during a robbery last year, said Thomas Staslicaka, of the office of examination and insurance of the National Credit Union Administration. This agency regulates all federally chartered credit unions including Fides.
"I have no idea how much money we owe them (DHR)," Hatcher said yesterday, "but we don't owe them that much."
Wipert said DHR removed all the food stamps from the Fides offices on April 26. DHR auditors should finish their report by the end of May, Wipert said, and determine exactly how much in stamps cannot be accounted for. This will be the amount owed to DHR by Fides, he said.
Fides is suffering from two problems, according to federal and DHR officials interviewed yesterday: the missing food stamp coupons and poor bookkeeping.
Staslicks said federal examiners found during a Novemebr examination that Fides "had some recordkeeping problems." In a later audit, in mid-April, he said the federal officials found "no dishonesty, just improper accounting on some members' accounts and food stamps." The April audit followed the DHR findings.
The credit union has 2,000 members drawn mostly from needy families in the Shaw area. The office is located in the Lincoln-Westmoreland building, a subsidized apartment project built after the 1968 civil disturbances.
Fides credit union has assets totaling $408,000, and this is the first time it has been in difficulty since it opened in 1961, Staslicka said.
Fides is the second city credit union this year whose contract to sell food stamps has been canceled by DHR because of unaccounted food stamp coupons.