The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Katrina Relief Leads to Billions in Waste and Fraud

The smell of money leads to abuse.

There has got to be a better way!

Several weeks ago, a contributor to the Iconoclast commented on the waste and mismanagement associated with Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast states. So, naturally, I was curious to see what The New York Times had to say on the subject in an article that appeared this morning (see “Breathtaking Waste and Fraud in Hurricane Aid” by Eric Lipton).

Wow. I guess I knew it was bad. I just didn’t know how bad it was.

Who is responsible? Why did this happen?

The initial temptation is to blame somebody and to exact retribution. Somebody has got to be punished!!!

Well… maybe yes but this is a much more complex issue than meets the eye.

Frankly, I have very mixed feelings about the whole mess along the Gulf Coast… and I do mean mess. I was there a few weeks before Katrina and several months later. I can assure you, the devastation is unbelievable.

Accordingly, I am glad our government is throwing money at the problem. Our government needs to help these people out.

I don’t like to see waste and fraud but I would be far more concerned if our government got so hung up on financial accounting that distressed citizens were left suffer any longer than they already have. People are still suffering.

It is my view that a little waste can be expected but let us take care of the needy citizens first.

But today’s report in The New York Times is sobering. One of the big facts that hit like a slap in the face is the estimated magnitude of the problem… $2 BILLION in fraud and waste. Also, government auditors estimate that as much as 21 percent of all direct aid to victims was improper.

Some of this waste was the result of sloppy management of government programs but a lot of it was intentional. The worse cases involved intentional fraud by public officials. It is comforting to know that thousands of abusers of these assistance programs will be looking over their shoulders before the five-year statute of limitations expires.

Yes, we should go after the bad guys and prosecute the abusers.

Without droning on and on… suffice it to say there has got to be a better way.

There is indeed a better way.

Disasters do happen. Disasters can be anticipated. They can be mitigated and they can be managed. Hurricane Katrina was not the first disaster to ever hit the United States and certainly will not be the last. As we learned from the 9/11/01 attacks on the WTC /Pentagon, we probably were not as prepared for disaster as we should have been.

Hopefully, today, our disaster managers and policy makers in Washington and in our state capitols are better positioned than they were a few years ago. But we know from news reports that there are huge gaps in our disaster response capabilities...some places worse than others.

Let’s hope that we learn from Katrina and from similar experiences.

It is not a question of “if” it is only a mater of “when.”

Are we ready?


  • At 6/28/2006 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The picture looks like Venice.

  • At 6/30/2006 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The mess is so big that there is bound to be abuse. I would just like to get a contractor to do my work at any cost. I get tired of waiting.

  • At 7/13/2006 10:43 PM, Anonymous szisk said…

    Public officials should who intentionally ripped off the system and sacrificed the people who they are supposed to be serving should be prosecuted agressively and required to serve on chain-gangs to clean up the mess.


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