Corruption, Incompetence and Bias
FEMA'S FISCAL DISASTER
Let's see. When Florida gets hit with a hurricane in election year 2004, FEMA eagerly pours out billions of taxpayer dollars in wasteful and corrupt shady deals. Then in 2005 when New Orleans is hit with Hurricane Katrina, FEMA is so slow to respond that it becomes an internationally-famous disgrace.
Here is a news update from Taxpayers for Common Sense. TCS is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare.
The “reassignment” of Michael Brown, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), may be a good political move for an administration feeling the heat in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. But unless FEMA shapes up its act in short order, Brown’s relegation to Washington will make very little difference to the thousands of Americans now dependent on FEMA to see them through this historic time of need.
Brown’s demotion was a long time coming. He rightfully should have been sacked last year, when his agency responded to Florida’s hurricane season by running a relief effort rife with abuse and fraud. During Hurricane Frances, thousands received aid for belongings they didn't own, temporary housing they never requested and cars worth far less than the government paid. If Katrina’s aftermath is handled this poorly – and the feds haven’t gotten off to a very good start – we could be looking at a relief effort that wastes billions of dollars desperately needed by relocated families.
FEMA is in charge with distributing storm payouts to hurricane victims in their time of need. After Uncle Sam declares a county a disaster area, residents of that county are eligible for FEMA’s support. But because of FEMA’s incompetence in Florida, billions were misspent on people didn’t see a lot of damage in the first place. One Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report that reviewed Miami-Dade County payments concluded that the agency's practices "cast doubt about the appropriateness" of awards elsewhere in the state.
Here are some of the worst examples of waste:
$8.2 million in rental assistance to residents who did not indicate a need for shelter. Several were cases where FEMA inspectors deemed homes unsafe, and applicants who received the payments never moved out. FEMA spent $17,424 alone on 24 people who reported that their homes were not damaged.
$97,500 for 15 automobiles with a "blue book" value of $56,140. In general, the report states that FEMA approved claims for damaged vehicles without properly verifying that the losses were caused by the storm.
Thousands more for televisions, appliances and furniture that was never damaged. The agency covered the expenses of 315 funerals statewide, even though Florida's medical examiners attributed only 123 deaths to the four hurricanes.
FEMA’s task has become so difficult because the agency relies on private companies to provide the inspection of hurricane damage and doesn’t do a good job adequately overseeing the work of these private companies.
In response to the four Florida hurricanes, the agency hired two companies that provided 1,600 new inspectors to survey the damage. Unfortunately, these private firms gave their employees only eight to 12 hours of training, according to the audit. These inspectors, many of which had criminal records, were not closely monitored during the inspection.
This time, FEMA’s task is much, much bigger. FEMA spent about six billion dollars in Florida; they have already spent more than that over the last week.
FEMA is one of the most important agencies in the U.S. government. It is responsible for rescuing Americans when they are at their most dire straits, and putting people on the path back to normalcy. Justifiably, billions will be given out to the survivors of Katrina as part of the efforts to rebuild and to restart their lives. FEMA has stated that they have fixed the problems. For the sake of Katrina survivors, let’s hope that is the case.
For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110 or email@example.com. TCS is at www.taxpayer.net
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