IT PROBABLY WOULDN'T come under the category of "double dipping" as defined by President Carter, but many readers no doubt were troubled by a report last week that there are some federal employees who have been receiving welfare payments from the city's Department of Human Resources. At a glance, one might conclude that 1) it's one horrible example of =welfare cheats" and 2) it must be the result of a period during which DHR was being mismanaged by Joseph P. Yeldell. Byt neither conclusion holds up closer examination.
For one thing, the report, disclosed by Health Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. in testimony before a House subcommittee, was not the product solely of a federal "probe" of the District government. Rather, it was a city-federal effort to match the local welfare rools with the roster of federal employes in the region. Similar checks are scheduled to be run in 19 cities; preminary findings already indicate similar statistics in other places.
The check here turned up 1,712 federal workers, about 5 per cent of the city's total caseload under its program of Aid to Families with Departent Children. But it wasn't known how many might be fraud cases. Moreover, certain federal workers do qualify for public aid: Regulations permit some working parents to receive reduced public-assistance payments through ther AFDC program. Also, officials note that there may still be other recipients whose eligibility may have changed without their realizing it.
This doesn't mean that the findings are invalid or that the system is fraud-free. And, as an HEW spokesman said, Mr. Califano was "not trying to prove that federal workers are worse than anyone else." The match-check is merely one of the many ways to obtain information for further checking. The city government, in fact, has been running similar comparisons of Social Security payments in the city and Maryland and Virginia, as well as a match-check of its own employees and its welfare lists. DHR Director Albert P. Russo has noted that criminal prosecution will be undertaken where it's warranted.
So without excusing any infractions that may be verified later, we wouldn't read too much into what has been found so far. The city's monitoring of welfare rolls is a complicated business, and the matching of these lists is only one method of keeping tabs on the accuracy of payments.Still, the regular use and examination fo available data in city hall are welcome evidence of better controls in a most sensitive area of administration.