WASHINGTON - U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Claire McCaskill and Chairman Ron Johnson are calling for strong oversight of federal agencies’ hurricane relief spending in order to curb waste, fraud, and abuse. Previous disaster relief oversight has found that hundreds of millions of dollars were not used appropriately, limiting victims’ access to the much-needed relief funds.
“Aggressive and independent oversight of disaster relief spending is necessary to protect the interests of taxpayers and to ensure that disaster assistance reaches hurricane victims, which is why we support additional funding to [agencies’ Office of Inspector General] for disaster relief oversight,” wrote the Senators in letters to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Small Business Association. These are the top agencies responsible for disbursing $15.25 billion in disaster relief funding that Congress appropriated in September, and these agencies will continue to be leaders in disaster relief as recovery efforts continue.
The agencies’ OIGs are responsible for conducting oversight over how the agencies use the funds so that resources go to hurricane victims instead of unauthorized expenditures, payments to contractors for work they did not do, or other issues that have previously arisen during relief efforts. “We are heartened to learn that [agency] OIG auditors and investigators are on the ground monitoring disaster relief spending and contracting in real time,” wrote the Senators. “We ask that [agency] OIG[s] report evidence of wasteful spending, fraud, or poor contract management as it occurs – not after the fact – so that Congress can intervene as needed.”
The Senators also requested a staff briefing from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) “to better understand how OMB is ensuring that federal agencies are taking appropriate steps to identify and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer-funded disaster relief programs.”
Read the Senators’ letter to the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Small Business Association HERE. Read the Senators’ letter to the Office of Management and Budget HERE.