U.S. Government Defrauded of Over $1 Billion in Hurricane Aid
The General Accounting Office is reporting that the Federal Government was defrauded of well over $1 billion of money intended to assist the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Fraud involving payments supposed to help victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita likely exceeds earlier estimates of $1 billion and only a tiny fraction of the money has been recovered, according to a U.S. government report released on Wednesday.
A February estimate that improper payments could be $1 billion “is likely understated,” the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, said in the report to the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
The GAO cited incidents in which FEMA gave $17 million in housing assistance to individuals who had already obtained free housing in the form of trailers or apartments and $20 million that went to people who improperly claimed for help for both storms that ravaged the U.S. Gulf Coast area.
“FEMA has yet to strike a proper balance between expedited assistance and good stewardship of taxpayer funds,” said Sen. Susan Collins, chairwoman of the committee and a Maine Republican.
One might quibble with the “fraud” language. I suspect a large portion of the housing assitance mentioned in the article was distributed more as a result of confusion than fraud. Still, considering that many Katrina victims are still suffering, the government losing over $1 billion to scam artists is pretty deplorable.