Thursday, June 15, 2006

Government report details fraud in FEMA relief funding

Government report details fraud in FEMA relief funding
June 14, 2006 03:26 PM EDT
Waste, fraud and abuse in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

A new government report details how FEMA doled out $1 billion in what was supposed to be emergency relief funding.

As requests for emergency assistance poured in after Hurricane Katrina, one applicant listed the Greenwood Cemetery in New Orleans as his address and FEMA promptly issued a check for $2,358 dollars for rental assistance.

That is just one of thousands of examples of alleged fraud and abuse described in a new report by the investigative arm of Congress.

The cost to taxpayers totaled about $1 billion.

The report says FEMA did not even try to verify the identity of people who applied for aid by phone and it says that FEMA's fraud controls are "weak or nonexistent."

More than 2,000 people applied for aid from prison and received about $12 million.

The report also finds that FEMA debit cards, which were supposed to be used for necessities, were used for a week-long Caribbean vacation, a $600 tab at a gentleman's club and a visit to Hooters that included a $200 bottle of champagne.

Former FEMA official John Copenhaver says that in the rush to get money to victims, mistakes are inevitable.

"Anytime you have to balance speed of assistance with accuracy, you are going to have problems," Copenhaver said.

A statement Wednesday from FEMA says it is "already reforming capabilities for how it will serve disaster victims this storm season."

Senator Collins says the fraud is so pervasive that she doubts FEMA will be ready for a hurricane season that's already here.

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer


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