Sandy took down trees in New York in the fall.

Sandy took down trees in New York in the fall. Kobby Dagan/

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Agencies Rev Up to Monitor Hurricane Sandy Relief Spending

OMB sets deadlines for plans on controlling against improper payments.

The White House budget office is proceeding with guidance for federal agencies involved in spending the $50 billion in disaster relief funds appropriated in January for victims of last October’s Hurricane Sandy.

Controller Danny Werfel, in a memo to all agency heads dated March 12, described an effort to provide additional controls to protect against improper payments, and to recapture any grant funds that remain unexpended two years after agencies obligate them.

The Office of Management and Budget is working with the recently renewed Recovery Board, major departments, and a special task force created to set performance metrics for programs, to aid individuals and communities victimized by the storm, which inflicted the most damage on New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Each federal agency by March 31 is required to submit an internal control plan to OMB, the Government Accountability Office, and its inspector general. OMB is to receive drafts by March 18, and will return comments by March 25.

Beginning on Sept. 30, Werfel wrote, “each agency head shall make an annual certification that the appropriate policies and controls are in place and that any corrective actions have been taken to mitigate the risk of fraud and inappropriate spending practices regarding activities and expenses related to Hurricane Sandy.”

The challenge of auditing the funds is being tackled by the Recovery Board. On Tuesday, the board’s executive director, Michael Wood, blogged about the need for agencies to share data as the Sandy money is rolled out. “A major challenge will be the lack of a central data system for this spending information,” he wrote. “Thus, it’s imperative that agencies, IGs, and state and local governments share their data on spending and contracts. … The benefits are easily summarized: Improved government efficiency and decision-making, more transparency in government programs and better oversight of taxpayer funds.”

Techniques for unifying software and exploiting data analytics, Wood said, were highlighted at a recent Recovery Board workshop and in a coming publication.

On Thursday, Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced a hearing on spending to mitigate Hurricane Sandy for March 20.

(Image via Kobby Dagan /