The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued another report stating that the fraud losses in Katrina and Rita are a lot higher than previously disclosed to the public. 

The report states:

  • Almost $20 million in double payments was paid to people claiming damage to the same property in both hurricanes (Katrina and Rita).
  • Almost $17 million in improper or fraudulent “rental assistance” payments given to people already receiving free housing.
  • 500 foreign students received $3 million in aid.
  • $156,000 was given to foreign workers on temporary visas.

Sadly enough, the report indicates that FEMA disabled a system (edit check in NEMIS) that would have caught people using duplicate information (social security numbers) to make claims in both hurricanes. In five of the six cases examined, the claimants didn’t even have to provide proof that they had conducted repairs after receiving money for the first claim.

I have no personal experience with “edit check in NEMIS,” but computers run pretty fast in today’s world, and it doesn’t make sense to me that an entire system designed to detect fraud was disabled?

Didn’t we have enough personnel to do a manual check when duplicate social security numbers were noted? And even if this were so – why didn’t FEMA take action (themselves) to identify the issues before the GAO investigated?

The use of other people’s social security numbers is nothing new and probably could have been anticipated, fairly easily.

There is also a lot of missing equipment. The report shows that 34 percent of the property purchased to aid efforts has either been lost, or stolen. In the case of 2o flat bottom boats purchased – only two remain missing – however twice the retail price was paid to a vendor, who also failed to pay for 11 of the boats he sold to the government.

Even scarier, the report indicates that FEMA overstated the amount of found property reported in July hearings to Congress. This was based on an e-mail sent by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) on the eve of the hearings.
FEMA’s estimate of the monetary impact of fraud in Katrina was $290 million, however if one is to believe the GAO report, the real losses surpass $1 billion.

With the stories that surfaced about prison inmates making claims and stolen information (social security numbers) being used in claims for addresses that were vacant lots – it’s entirely possible that there is additional fraud that hasn’t, or never will be discovered.

There were also a lot of stories of charities being defrauded and even fake charities being set-up. The GAO report only addresses the fraud losses incurred by the government.

GAO report, here.

Report Fraud, Waste and Abuse to the GAO, here.

FraudNET (Report Fraud, Waste and Abuse)

One might come to the conclusion that we wasted a lot of money on Katrina, but this is far from being true. In fact, a lot of people are still suffering as a result of these disasters, and the truth is that the money could have been used for better purposes.

I plan to explore this more in detail in future posts, but for now, I’ll pass on a site that is devoted to the real victims in these disasters:

Beyond Katrina: The Voice of Hurricane & Disaster Recovery

[Edited by Simon – Changed categories, please use appropriate ones]

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