For well over a year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has failed to cash several checks from two former senior officials who reimbursed the agency for improper spending, according to government auditors.
Fred J. Villella, the agency's former No. 3 official, paid FEMA $2,383 in July 1984 for allegedly improper expenses, the General Accounting Office said. But FEMA officials have yet to deposit the seven checks.
The agency also has not cashed repayment checks for an undisclosed amount from Louis O. Giuffrida, who resigned as director last month, the GAO said.
The findings were released by Rep. Harold L. Volkmer (D-Mo.), chairman of a House Science and Technology subcommittee, who said they show "it is still business as usual" at FEMA. He said "the depth of mismanagement" at FEMA "continues to amaze me."
According to the GAO, Villella had repaid the agency $772 for months of free lodging at a FEMA training center in western Maryland; $1,234 for personal use of government-leased cars, personal phone calls, personal services by FEMA consultants and parking tickets; and $348 for complimentary rooms provided by two California hotels during a FEMA business trip.
Agency officials told the GAO they initially held the checks to allow Villella to challenge their calculations. FEMA spokesman Peg Maloy said the Justice Department took custody of the checks about nine months ago as part of its investigation of the agency.
While Justice made no request that the money not be repaid, she said, "because of the ongoing investigation, we can't carry out the collection activities."
Maloy said she had no information on the nature of Giuffrida's repayment. A subcommittee report in July urged Giuffrida to repay FEMA $5,091 for first-class air fare for his wife on agency trips to Europe and Mexico City. It also criticized Giuffrida and Villella for accepting free tickets to political fund-raisers from a FEMA contractor.