Posted by R. Neal

Tracking Katrina Money Proving Difficult:

Trying to track who's getting what portion of the billions of dollars in federal Hurricane Katrina aid is enough to give any auditor a headache - and is a problem that critics say creates alarming gaps in public oversight.

The database of contracts is incomplete. Information released by federal agencies is spotty and sporadic. And disclosure of many no-bid contracts isn't required by law.

Among the problems cited:

  • The government Web site devoted to disclosing all agency contracts in compliance with federal law currently lacks Katrina information from the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA - the two agencies awarding the most contracts - because of time delays and other glitches.
     
  • The Web site for contract offers has little Katrina information because disclosure requirements were initially waived for the disaster.
     
  • Because only new contracts must be disclosed, agencies need not reveal information when awarding no-bid work to politically connected companies such as Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root that have pre-existing government contracts. Vice President Dick Cheney headed Halliburton from 1995 to 2000.

Critics from both sides of the aisle say it may be a violation of the Freedom of Information Act. Even the Heritage Foundation is concerned:

President Bush "should announce now that he wants the FOIA applied in advance to all documents for Katrina recovery programs," said Mark Tapscott, a director at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

Accountability? We don't need no stinkin' accountability!