FEMA fraud committed by individuals that came out in the Senate committee hearing yesterday is getting media attention. But Sen Levin raised the issue of contractor procurement fraud at the end of the hearing yesterday with Alice Fischer of the Katrina fraud task force….
LEVIN: The contractor area is an area which involves a huge amount of money. And I happen to agree with our chairman that individual fraud cases are important. And they add up and they are a deterrant and they send a signal. What I say doesn’t in any way diminish the importance of those cases. But I just want to make sure that there is a very significant focus on contracting fraud here because there’s allegations which are mighty serious, none have lead to indictments. And I don’t want to prejudge any case but I just don’t think that there’s been adequate attention that’s been paid to it at least from the results so far and from the mandate itself so you might want to look at that mandate and see if you agree with me I don’t know if you’re referring to that or not
FISHER: Well Senator I couldn’t agree with you more procurement fraud is going to be the big dollars and while these cases may come a little later than the immediate assistance cases that went out so quickly we are working very hard with Mr. Skinner and others in the IG community to not wait for the investigations to turn them over to criminal prosecutions but actually to get ahead of the game and to work with them hand in hand to try to push the investigations through aggressively. We did report to the Attorney General and it does very much set out in our mission as part of the Hurricane Katrina fraud task force that procurement fraud is an absolute part of the mission. We are very committed to it so while again these FEMA fraud cases that may have been the lower dollar amounts were the first ones that were being made we never took our eye off the ball and we tried to train and get ready for what we expect to be a long haul with regard to procurement contracts and I’m working with investigators very proactively to try to identify them so I thank you for your support in that regard.
Ok what appears to have been said here is AG Gonzales was quick to go after individuals getting tattoos and condoms. He gave a clear mandate on that and sounds less clear a mandate initially about contractors who have taken the government for the “big dollars” say tens or hundreds of millions. It sounds as though the task force had to meet with Gonzales to clarify the mandate regarding procurement fraud. Fisher says they are now trying aggressively to push those investigations through.
212 individuals face prosecution for aid fraud. Getting a $450 tattoo is not cool, yet focusing on that is like stressing to police that the mugger took 85 cents from your front pocket and not saying so much about the $350 dollars he took from the wallet in your back pocket. It reminds me of the immediate days post Katrina with all the tough talk and focus on looters while ignoring the system was falling apart before our eyes. There’s always going to be bad individuals. That’s easy to deal with. Prosecute them. But what of bad government? Poor planning resulting in the need to give out no bid contracts to any Tom, Dick and Christian Gary presents a tougher problem. When they make a big splash in prosecuting the companies that have ripped us off and correcting the crappy government procedures that allowed it, then I’ll be impressed. The question is will it be as titillating to the media as the $150 condoms I hear so much about?