Oversight of hurricane relief efforts keeps inspectors general busy

By the end of October, federal inspector general offices had opened 92 investigations of potential misconduct in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, according to a recent report.

The inquiries stemmed in part from more than 2,000 hotline complaints and have resulted in 23 arrests and 12 indictments governmentwide, according to the first President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency biweekly report on hurricane oversight.

The report includes information from all federal agencies involved in hurricane relief. The numbers are expected rise since this is the first in an ongoing series of biweekly reports, said Tamara Faulkner, a Homeland Security Department spokeswoman.

Misconduct could involve anything from fraudulent claims for government benefits to improper contracting actions.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a "multitude" of potentially fraudulent benefits claims have been filed since the hurricanes struck the Gulf Coast. False disaster claims carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

"Through computer databases, informant tips and hotline tips, we are receiving information of fraudulent claims," said Homeland Security Department Inspector General Richard Skinner in a statement. "Those who have made such claims, whether to the Federal Emergency Management Agency or any other government entity, should take stock of their situation and seriously consider withdrawing their claims or voluntarily returning monies already disbursed to them."

The DHS inspector general's office plans to assign auditors and investigators to work on hurricane-related issues for as long as a decade and has sent three fraud investigative teams to the Gulf Coast region, Faulkner said. Each team consists of three auditors and three investigators, but that number is flexible depending on needs, she said.

More than 400 auditors, investigators and managers from 16 agencies, including ones within DHS, have been assigned to review about 3,000 contracts worth more than $5.1 billion and more than $26.9 million in purchase card spending, the PCIE report stated. The auditors will review the contracts to ensure that they fall within federal guidelines and are in the government's best interest.

Nearly all of the contracts subject to review -- 2,777 contracts worth $3.95 billion -- were issued by DHS agencies. The reviews also will cover 99 Defense Department contracts worth more than $1 billion.

Skinner is coordinating the inspector general oversight activities through his role as chair of the PCIE's Homeland Security Round Table. He also is working with the Government Accountability Office to monitor purchase card transactions.

"With this much damage, money and [the] number of agencies involved, the oversight task necessarily encompasses more than just the DHS [inspector general]," Skinner on Wednesday told the special House committee examining the events surrounding the hurricane.

Agency inspectors general have also established a Hurricane Katrina Contract Audit Task Force to coordinate their work, according to Skinner. It includes auditors from GAO, the General Services Administration, the Pentagon and other agencies.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.