The state has overpaid day care providers at least $13.7 million in recent years - including millions of dollars spent on bogus child care that was never delivered, according to the state's own records.And there's no system in place to collect.
When regulators have tried to collect the misspent taxpayer-funded money, parents and providers have stiffed the state to the tune of $6.4 million, the Journal Sentinel has found.
A four-month Journal Sentinel investigation published last month detailed a lack of regulatory controls within the $340 million Wisconsin Shares child-care subsidy program - a system prone to abuse and fraud that can go undetected.
Even with lax oversight, state regulators have identified millions of dollars that should not have been paid to providers.
The worst part?
Federal regulators were warned about a lack of oversight within the child-care subsidy program almost five years ago.
The U.S. General Accounting Office cautioned regulators in 2004 that the system was vulnerable to abuse.
About two-thirds of the money spent on Wisconsin Shares comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
The federal Administration for Children and Families "has no oversight activity concerning the issues of improper payments or management of the roughly $8.5 billion in (federal) funds spent on child care," staffers in the Child Care Bureau wrote in 2004.