Internal audit blasts FEMA, Homeland Security

| Thursday, December 29, 2005

A recently issued internal report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General has called into question the ability of the agency to adequately handle its responsibilities.

The Associated Press reported that the report states the department suffers from major management challenges and questions the department’s ability to oversee the billions of dollars in contracts it awards each year.

The report also singled out the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a top concern following its mishandling of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005.

“Based on our work related to prior emergency response efforts, we have raised concerns regarding weaknesses,” the report said.

The report found that the circumstances created by the hurricanes provided an “unprecedented opportunity for fraud, waste and abuse” because FEMA’s programs are handled through contracts and grants.

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke told The AP that the department is working to make programs more efficient and effective and that making changes to FEMA is one of the department’s top priorities.

The audit found that Homeland Security had awarded $4.1 billion in contracts related to Katrina – mostly for consulting and housing – as opposed to the nearly $10 billion in contracts awarded on all remaining projects in 2005, according to The AP.

The report also cited financial reporting problems, delays in creating and installing a new personnel system, and poor coordination between border patrol officers and immigration investigators as other areas of concern.