GAO: Federal gov’t unable to track spending of $88 billion in Katrina funding

A post at theDa Po Blog points out this all too frequent problem on the Gulf Coast… “FEMA promised to fund a project, then new FEMA officials took over and decided they wouldn’t fund it.”

But after reading the September GAO report on Katrina I would say the problem is worse than an inability to track Promises.The GAO report found the the federal Governement is unable to track the SPENDING of $88 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations funds for the Gulf Coast. From page 95 of the report…

In terms of protecting the government’s financial interest, our ongoing work in this areafound that there is no one agency or central collection point that exists to compile and report on how the emergency supplemental appropriations funds provided to 23 different federal agencies are being spent. Without a framework and mechanisms in place to collect and consolidate information from these agencies on a periodic basis, it will be difficult for decision makers to determine how much federal funding has been spent and by whom, whether more may be needed, or whether too much has been provided. The ability to separately track and report on these funds is important to help ensure better accountability and clearly identify the status of funding provided in direct response to these hurricanes at both the individual federal agency level as well as the government wide level. Also, it is important to provide transparency so that hurricane victims, affected states, as well as American taxpayers, know how these funds are being spent.We will issue a report later this year that addresses the federal government’s ability to track and report on the hurricane relief funds received. (emphasis mine) [$88 billion figure at page 72]

$88 billion going who knows where for what…I hope the next report garners more attention than this one did.

UPDATE: The GAO report stated OMB was going to be given a copy of this report. Apparently the White House OMB took some action in August in response though doean’t appear at all adequate…

Until last week, when the White House Office of Management and Budget released an agencywide breakdown of recovery spending, the administration had not provided a clear overview of how the money was being doled out. For much of the year, elected officials, government auditors and outside experts had to rely on fragmentary indicators of the pace of recovery spending, which handicapped efforts to monitor the process.

“It’s not only that we don’t know what’s been spent. We haven’t even had an accurate description of what ‘spent’ means,” said Rob Nabors, Democratic staff director for the House Appropriations Committee.“They talk about ‘commitments’ and ‘obligations’ — they’ve invented new terms for not spending money.”

Brian M. Riedl, a budget analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said: “The government is barely adequate at counting how much money goes out the door, but it’s terrible when it comes to tracking how much reaches the ground.”


When the Office of Management and Budget released its spending overview last week, the numbers did little to dampen criticism. The figures showed, for example, that the Department of Housing and Urban Development had committed $11.5 billion in block grants, mostly through housing reconstruction programs administered by Louisiana and Mississippi. But the same breakdown showed that HUD had spent only $100 million of its overall $17.1 billion congressional allocation. (emphasis mine)

Guess I’ll wait for the next GAO report on the matter

One thought on “GAO: Federal gov’t unable to track spending of $88 billion in Katrina funding

  1. the bush assministration sure has some fuzzy accounting. whether it be katrina/levee or iWaq.
    or anywhere.

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