A Lady's Ruminations

"Jane was firm where she felt herself to be right." -Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice


Saturday, September 17, 2005

"A cesspool of wasteful spending."

LA Times: Louisiana Officials Indicted Before Katrina Hit---

WASHINGTON — Senior officials in Louisiana's emergency planning agency already were awaiting trial over allegations stemming from a federal investigation into waste, mismanagement and missing funds when Hurricane Katrina struck.

And federal auditors are still trying to track as much as $60 million in unaccounted for funds that were funneled to the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency dating back to 1998.

In March, FEMA demanded that Louisiana repay $30.4 million to the federal government.

The problems are particularly worrisome, federal officials said, because they involve the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the agency that will administer much of the billions in federal aid anticipated for victims of Katrina.

Earlier this week, federal Homeland Security officials announced they would send 30 investigators and auditors to the Gulf Coast to ensure relief funds were properly spent.

Mark Smith, a spokesman for the Louisiana emergency office, said the agency had responded to calls for reform, and that "we now have the policy and personnel in place to ensure that past problems aren't repeated."

He said earlier problems were largely administrative mistakes, not due to corruption.

But federal officials disagreed. They said FEMA for years expressed concerns over patterns of improper management and lax oversight throughout the state agency, and said most problems had not been corrected.

They point to criminal indictments of three state workers as evidence the problem was more than management missteps. Two other state emergency officials also were identified in court documents as unindicted co-conspirators.

"The charges were made after some very extensive reviews by FEMA investigators and other authorities, who identified issues they felt were of the severity and magnitude to refer them to the U.S. attorney's office," said David Passey, the spokesman for FEMA's regional office in Texas.

Passey, while acknowledging that the state had made some administrative changes, said it had not completed the kind of overhaul FEMA said was needed.

"It concerns us a lot. We are devoted to the mission of helping people prepare for, prevent and recover from disasters and we want these federal funds — this taxpayer money — to be spent and used well and in accordance with the rules," he said.

Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a Washington watchdog group, said recent Louisiana history showed that FEMA "money earmarked for saving lives and homes'' was instead squandered in "a cesspool of wasteful spending."
I guess "corruption in Lousiana" isn't just a Hollywood-invention.

You can read the rest here.

(Curtsy to Drudge)