Saturday, September 17, 2005

Louisiana Officials indicted before Katrina hit?

The heading of this posting is not mine; it is the headline from the Los Angeles Times this morning. The Times is finally picking up on an issue which has been underreported everywhere.

A few tasty snips from the article:

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.

Snip ---

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.Snip ---
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."Louisiana's emergency office receives money directly from FEMA. It passes on much of the funding to local governments that apply for assistance.The audit reports said state operating procedures increased the likelihood of fraud and corruption going undetected.

I have previously posted on the problems associated with the authority responsible for levees in the New Orleans area. An organization which was financially insolvent, but had the wherewithal to spend over 700-thousand dollars on the Mardi Gras fountain on the city’s north side.

And of course this tidbit: If you are wondering about those evacuation plans FEMA and Congress are beginning to ask questions about how money set aside for evacuation plans were spent on issues of marginal evacuation value. Notable is this diversion dates back to 1998, when the head of FEMA was James Lee Witt. At last report, now a consultant for the state of Louisiana on disaster recovery.

Investigations? You want investigations? We’re gonna have plenty of them.
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