Post-Katrina tech funds prove difficult to track

Two years after Hurricane Katrina ransacked New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast, there has been little analysis of the reconstruction dollars spent on information technology systems, government watchdog groups say.

What is known is that billions of taxpayer dollars were dispensed through contracts that experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending and mismanagement, according to government reports.

The federal government, congressional committees and advocacy groups have posted several databases online that detail federal contract awards.

The spreadsheets show millions of dollars in spending on tech-related products and services, including for software and telecommunications, but the data is not always recent and spending for Katrina reconstruction overall and tech-related spending sometimes are listed separately.

Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, said the main reason his organization is not tracking Katrina tech spending is a lack of government transparency. "The contracts aren't online," he said. "[Inspector general] reports aren't always made publicly available. It's too time intensive."

He added, "For us to do something like that, without some kind of whistleblower tip, I don't have the time or the resources ... to find that needle in a haystack." Amey pointed to OMB Watch's FedSpending.org as a good resource. "But again, that's something that's coming from [a non-government organization], not the U.S. government."

Adam Hughes, federal fiscal policy director at OMB Watch, said, "Tracking government tech spending after Katrina would be too specific of an issue to dedicate resources to, and ... we'd be far worse at it than groups like POGO -- who also seem daunted by the task."

The Center for Public Integrity's Katrina Watch project did not cover specific industries like technology because the issues it chose to analyze involved "the most pressing public policy issues that impacted residents and governments alike," center spokesman Steve Carpinelli said.

The House Homeland Security Committee did hold one hearing that addressed a FEMA computer program used for administering benefits to Katrina victims. During that session, lawmakers discovered that a failure to insert certain eligibility factors into the program could have led to additional fraud. Earlier, they discovered that a large supply company had posed as a small business to gain a contract for office equipment.

A committee aide said the members have not focused on tech spending yet but are definitely considering a closer examination. On Thursday, the department's IG told the House Homeland Security Committee that the office has not reviewed tech and communications acquisitions surrounding Katrina procurement. The committee plans to ask the IG to include such work as part of its fiscal 2008 annual performance plan.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has asked the Homeland Security Department's inspector general to inform members of any allegations related to tech spending, spokeswoman Leslie Phillips said. Committee ranking Republican Susan Collins of Maine is focused on revamping the entire contracting process so that all contracts, including technology awards, are under greater scrutiny, a minority staffer said.

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

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

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