Watchdog had warned about FEMA disaster funding: report

Watchdog had warned about FEMA disaster funding: report

A government watchdog warned lawmakers this summer that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had a “continued failure to manage disaster relief funds adequately,” according to a new report.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General concluded one-third of the FEMA grants it inspected were improper or unauthorized, a finding that lead him to warn congressional committees about problems at the agency, Bloomberg News reported late Thursday.

The Inspector General found 29 percent of the fiscal 2015 FEMA grants it audited had problems like “duplicated payments, unsupported costs, improper contract costs, and unauthorized expenditures,” according to the report. Audits of FEMA-funded projects since then exhibited other issues.

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Inspector General John Roth sent the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee a letter in June outlining his concerns. Roth told Bloomberg the warning came because of a “frustration in our lack of progress in getting FEMA or Congress to pay attention to this.”

A FEMA spokesperson told Bloomberg, “as with any relationship involving honest dialogue, there may on occasion be genuine disagreements. ... In every case, however, FEMA strives to make decisions based on the totality of all available information."

The report comes as scrutiny grows over a no-bid, $300 million contract awarded to a small Montana energy firm to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid after Hurricane Maria.

FEMA is paying for the contract, which was awarded to Whitefish Energy in September. Lawmakers have raised questions about the contract and the circumstances around its signing.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló on Wednesday asked the Homeland Security Inspector General this week to audit the deal, something the office said it would do