The Federal Emergency Management Agency has lowered its estimate of the dollar value of Hurricane Katrina-related contracts by $600 million, or 15 percent, and its count of contracts by half because of double counting, the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general reported to Congress.
The corrections, disclosed in a twice-monthly report -- to be released today -- by a panel of federal agency auditors, were among several findings of suspect or money-wasting FEMA recovery operations.
In one case, investigators said that the Department of Veterans Affairs moved as early as 11 days after the Aug. 29 storm to make 7,000 properties available to house evacuees. But as of Oct. 13, an agreement to repair and lease 2,000 properties for up to 18 months "has not been executed . . . and the agreement is still under review," a Dallas audit director for Homeland Security said.
Tamara Faulkner, congressional affairs liaison for Inspector General Richard L. Skinner, said the office would not comment before the report is released today.
On Oct. 18, the American Red Cross acknowledged vastly overstating the number and potential cost of evacuees staying in hotels because of data-reading errors. Instead of 600,000 displaced people, the federally funded program housed 200,000 people.
Yesterday, federal authorities said 3,667 contracts totaling $5.3 billion have been awarded government-wide. FEMA's share was revised from 2,777 to 1,845 awards, worth $3.4 billion, down about $592 million.
Auditors also identified an $80 million contract for seven camps for emergency workers in Louisiana that paid $5 million to Clearbrook LLC for food and lodging before the contract's effective date and included billing errors indicating more than $3 million in overcharges. They recommended that FEMA suspend payments.