$1 Billion in Questionable DHS FY 2014 Disaster-Related Funding Found by IG

In Fiscal Year 2014, disaster-related audits by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Inspector General (IG) revealed significant problems with approximately $1 billion of federal funds allocated for disaster assistance and recovery efforts.

These findings are summarized in the IG report, Summary and Key Findings of Fiscal Year 2014 FEMA Disaster Grant and Program Audits.

In FY 2014, the Inspector General told Congress it issued 61 audits of grants, programs and operations funded from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund.

The grant audit reports issued by the IG in FY 2014 included $971.7 million in potential monetary benefits, representing 28 percent of the $3.44 billion of grant funds the IG audited last fiscal year.

Despite the findings of all these IG audits, it “continues to find problems with grant management, ineligible and unsupported costs and noncompliance with federal contracting requirements,” the IG stressed.

A more “significant issue for FY 2014 grant audits,” the IG stated, was the “unused funding that could be put to better use.”

For example, Homeland Security Today reported the IG determined a $32.4 million FEMA grant made to a Houston, Texas hospital to repair damages from Hurricane Ike in 2008 was grossly mismanaged and misued.

The audit report, FEMA Should Recover $32.4 Million in Grant Funds Awarded to Riverside General Hospital, Houston, Texas, also cited lax monitoring of hospital officials’ use of the taxpayer-funded grant awarded by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, a FEMA grantee.

These revelations precede the numerous audit reports issued by the Inspector General documenting many millions in FEMA Public Assistance Grant Funds awarded for Hurricane Katrina damages. The IG stated the millions were improper, improperly used … and “should be recovered by FEMA.” Despite FEMA’s decade of progress after Hurricane Katrina, millions in public assistance grants were misspent, IG concluded.

Additionally, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ impartial investigative branch, also concluded in a new 93-page audit report that there is no comprehensive, strategic approach to identifying, prioritizing and implementing investments for disaster resilience, which increases the risk that the federal government and nonfederal partners will experience lower returns on investments or lost opportunities to strengthen key critical infrastructure and lifelines.”

Despite the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act that gave FEMA clear guidance on its mission and priorities, and provided the legislative authorities it needed to better partner with state, local, tribal and territorial governments before, during and after disasters, the IG recently concluded FEMA should recover more than $52 million that was awarded in Public Assistance Grant Funds that were improperly used.

Among these was $4.9 million of $87.7 million in Public Assistance Grant Funds awarded to the Hancock County, Mississippi Board of Supervisors for Hurricane Katrina damages the IG determined should be recovered by FEMA.

The plethora of IG audits of FEMA issued disaster grants determined there’s been widespread misuse, improper and improperly awarded and spent monies.

The following are just some of the IG’s audits that recommended:

FEMA should recover $1.3 million ofPublic Assistance Grant Funds awarded to Desire Street Ministries, New Orleans, for Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA should recover $8.0 Million of $26.6 million in Public Assistance Grant Funds Awarded to St. Stanislaus College Preparatory in Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA should recover $1.7 million of Public Assistance Grant Funds Awarded to the City of Waveland, Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA should recover $8.2 million of the $14.9 million of Public Assistance Grant Funds Awarded to the Harrison County School District, Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA should recover $5.3 million of the $52.1 million of Public Assistance Grant Funds awarded to the Bay St. Louis Waveland School District in Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA should recover $3.5 million of Public Assistance Grant Funds awarded to the City of Gautier, Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA should recover $3.2 million of Public Assistance Grant Funds awarded to the Moss Point School District for Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA should recover $8.5 million of Public Assistance Grant Funds that were awarded to the City of Gulfport, Mississippi for debris removal and emergency protective measures following Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA should also recover another $1.9 million of Public Assistance Grant Funds awarded to the Hancock County Utility Authority for Hurricane Katrina.

FEMA should recover another $894,764 of Public Assistance Grant Funds that were awarded to the Town of Dauphin Island, Alabama for Hurricane Katrina.

Finally, the IG found FEMA should recover $5.3 million of Public Assistance Grant Funds awarded to the University of Southern Mississippi for Hurricane Katrina.

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