FEMA cracks down on fraud in Louisiana


The Los Angeles Times breaks the story today  that several 'senior officials' in Louisiana's emergency planning agencies were under indictment for waste and fraud concerning expenditure of federal funds for disaster mitigation before Katrina hit. Federal auditors are still trying to account for nearly $60 million that was sent to the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), dating back to 1998.  In March, FEMA also demanded that Louisiana repay $30.4 million to the federal government.  Most of these funds were sent to the state under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which was to be used to retrofit property and improve flood control facilities.

There is no mention of misuse of funds lavished on state agencies specifically for disaster preparedness and response, but in my opinion, this is only the tip of the iceberg.  The sluggish and incompetent reaction of city and state agencies to Katrina makes one to wonder if the sophisticated technologies and expertise billed to US taxpayers to the tune of over $140 million ever actually existed as touted by state officials.

It is also no surprise that the allegations of waste and mismanagement date back to the late 90s.  Bill Clinton's use of the FEMA was largely reserved for distributing federal dollars on favored congressional districts, governors, and mayors for seemingly minor to mid—level 'disasters' or for questionable 'preventive measures.'  This political cronyism was carried over into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when Democrats in Congress insisted that FEMA be brought under the umbrella of DHS.  By using the very real necessity to beef up our security at home, politicians on both sides of the aisle capitalized on another massive income redistribution scheme; and at the very least in Louisiana, there was little to show for our taxpayer dollars.

As this story develops, it will be interesting to see who the players were in this mess, and the timelines involved.  It's entirely possible that Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin were feeling the heat of the FEMA investigators months before Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.  It certainly places their rants bashing FEMA and the feds in a whole new light.

Doug Hanson  09—17—05