Audit Criticizes FEMA Waste
In the days and weeks following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, it’s understandable that FEMA would give a higher priority to helping the needy than to assuring that they really were needy. It’s more difficult to excuse wasteful payment of fraudulent claims that came months after the hurricane dissipated.
A GAO audit shows that FEMA has an ineffective oversight process and therefore continues to pay fraudulent claims. FEMA has wasted or been cheated out of at least $1 billion. At the same time, it hasn’t always put the money where it’s really needed, resulting in a recent court order “to resume housing payments for thousands of people displaced by Katrina.”
Not all of the loss resulted from fraudulent claims. FEMA can’t seem to keep track of the equipment that its employees purchased:
FEMA could not find dozens of laptops, printers and other items that employees purchased with government-issued credit cards for Katrina disaster work. In one case, FEMA purchased 20 flat-bottom boats, but could not find two of them and lacked the legal titles to any of them.
Commenting on the audit, Joe Lieberman finally found something intelligent to mumble about.
"The record is clear that, going forward, FEMA has much work to do before we can be confident that it is providing assistance to those who are eligible and who need it, while denying it to those who do not," he said.
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