In a 12-year period, New York City reduced its welfare payment error rate from 27.4 percent to 3.6 percent. This success was achieved in two stages. The first stage spanned the years 1973 to 1980 and was characterized by the establishment of centralized administrative controls, including increasingly demanding client eligibility verification requirements and computerized verification of information submitted by beneficiaries against independent sources. The second stage spanned the years 1981 to 1985 and focused on the implementation of decentralized controls through enhanced accountability of field supervisors and workers. Successful reduction of the welfare payment error rate required a sustained commitment in resources and management. This focus, however, did not negatively affect access to and quality of services. New York City's experience demonstrates that public assistance programs can be administered both efficiently and with sensitivity to beneficiaries.