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Louisiana Fights Fraud With Mapping Software

The state's Department of Social Services is marrying food-stamp business-intelligence systems with GIS data about retailers.
NEW ORLEANS--"It's not just mining the data anymore," said H. Duane Fontenot, director of Louisiana's Department of Social Services' division of information services, about an application that uses business-intelligence software married with geographic information system software to try to cut down food-stamp fraud. "We want to look at things on an enterprisewide basis."

Louisiana's Department of Social Services has been employing the system, which uses business-intelligence software from Information Builders Inc. and GIS software from ESRI Inc., for about two months, said Fontenot, officially introducing the system at Information Builders' user conference here.

The Web-based system allows the state's 19 social-services investigators to map transactional food-stamp data with geographic data about retailers to try to spot fraudulent activity. Fraud accounts for about 4% of the $700 million federally funded food-stamp program, so cutting fraud could mean saving millions in federal funds, Fontenot said.

The department has been using Information Builders' WebFocus business-intelligence software since the late 1990s for real-time reporting on food-stamp transactions.

Louisiana tapped IBM Global Services and a local consulting company, Bluestreak Technologies, to help develop the GIS system. Fontenot said the department officials are thinking about employing the system in connection with its child-support and day-care services. Louisiana's ultimate goal, though, said Fontenot, "is to become more efficient in providing services."