Auditors Find Huge Fraud in FEMA Aid
Thousands of applicants for federal emergency relief money after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita used duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers or bogus addresses, suggesting that the $2.3 billion program was a victim of extensive fraud, a Congressional auditor will report Monday.
The examination of the so-called Expedited Assistance program determined that the Federal Emergency Management Agency failed to take even the most basic steps to confirm the identifies of about 1.4 million people who sought expedited cash assistance, leaving the program vulnerable to the "significant fraud and abuse," the Government Accountability Office intends to report.
The auditors did not try to estimate the total dollar amount of fraudulent claims. But the report says that FEMA itself had found that 900,000 of the 2.5 million applications for all forms of individual assistance were "potential duplicates."
Even when FEMA's automated computer system picked out what might be fraudulent applications, payments were at times still sent, says the advance testimony of Gregory D. Kutz, the managing director of the G.A.O.'s forensic audits unit.
A friend of mine predicted at the time that the Katrina aid program would lead to a huge mess for two reasons: FEMA had already demonstrated massive incompetence, and Republicans have no experience in running efficient aid programs. (Although Democrats aren't perfect, there are certainly a lot more Democrats with experience in handling social service programs.)
It could have been a matter of going with the lesser of two evils. Widespread fraud vs widespread anarchy. I know things wern't exactly peacefull that week, but they had to make the decision before things erupted and it could have been even worse.
This is exactly why the government should run as little as possible. When the mangers have no fianancial stake in the bottom line, there is no incentive to curb fraud, waste and abuse. I see this on a daily basis (no matter who is in the white house).
This is nothing compared to the billions of dollars we (the taxpayers) lose to fraud, waste and abuse every year in the medicare/medicaid programs. Anyone who thinks that this country could run a cost effective national health care system is living in fantasyland (or Cambridge).
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