Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Is this a worse disaster than Katrina?

No it's not tropical storm Alberto. It's $1.4 billion in bogus aid handed out by the government to "Katrin victims."

WASHINGTON - A FEMA official angered lawmakers Wednesday, after she cast doubt on a congressional study that concluded up to $1.4 billion of the individual aid doled out after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was spent for bogus reasons.

[...] The GAO concluded that FEMA was hoodwinked to pay for season football tickets, a tropical vacation and a sex change procedure. Prison inmates, a supposed victim who used a New Orleans cemetery for a home address and a person who spent 70 days at a Hawaiian hotel all were able to get taxpayer help, according to evidence that gives a new black eye to the nation's disaster relief agency.

[...]The investigative agency said it found people lodged in hotels often were paid twice, since FEMA gave them individual rental assistance and paid hotels directly. FEMA paid California hotels $8,000 to house one individual - the same person who received three rental assistance payments for both disasters.

In another instance, FEMA paid an individual $2,358 in rental assistance, while at the same time paying about $8,000 for the same person to stay 70 nights at more than $100 per night in a Hawaii hotel.

FEMA also could not establish that 750 debit cards worth $1.5 million even went to Katrina victims, the auditors said.

Among the items purchased with the cards:

-An all-inclusive, one-week Caribbean vacation in the Punta Cana resort in the Dominican Republic.

-Five season tickets to New Orleans Saints professional football games.

-Adult erotica products in Houston and "Girls Gone Wild" videos in Santa Monica, Calif.

-Dom Perignon champagne and other alcoholic beverages in San Antonio.

Yep, your tax dollars went to someone's sex change operation, someone's champagne dinner, season football tickets, and a nice little vacation in the Caribbean. They couldn't even say where some of theie pre-loaded debit cards went.

In FEMA's scramble to not appear incompetent in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina (even though most of the blame should be on the shoulders of Nagin and Blanco for piss poor preparedness and crappy execution of a stupid strategy. See Jason Coleman's excellent Katrina coverage), they went straight to the first step in the government solution manual: throw money at the problem. That never works, and this is an even better example than our horrible, failing education system. I thought at the time that just giving away money was going to be trouble. I hate it when I'm right.