New contractor selected for New Orleans infamous Road Home program

Louisiana officials will be breaking ties with their scandal-plagued Road Home contractor ICF International once ICF's contract expires in June, reports the Times Picayune.

Officials have selected Hammerman & Gainer Inc., to take over the administration and distribution of homeowner grants in the the $10.3 billion hurricane recovery program.

Louisiana Recovery Authority Executive Director Paul Rainwater promised the initial contracts will contain clear performance goals for the company to meet, measures that were absent in ICF's initial contract, reports the Times-Picayune.

The private consulting firm ICF International, Inc. has been widely criticized for its troublesome management of Louisiana's Road Home program in the wake of Katrina, as well as for several abuses and scandals surrounding its employees. The three-year, $912 million contract with the Fairfax, Virginia company (one of the largest non-construction contracts in Louisiana's history) was plagued by complaints surrounding its glacial pace of aid distribution -- a massive, slow-moving homeowner grant program and a mostly ineffective loan program for rental property owners, reports the Times-Picayune.

As Facing South reported back in February 2007, 18 months after the storm Louisiana's Road Home program had only given money to 97 out of 130,000 homeowners who had asked for assistance. The program's failure to deliver financial assistance to homeowners in a timely manner were blamed on the out-sourcing of the Road Home program to ICF.

ICF's failed administration of the program was so spectacular that in 2007 the Louisiana state house voted 97-1 to approve a resolution demanding Gov. Kathleen Blanco cancel the contract with ICF -- but state leaders ultimately decided against it because it could involve losing even more money.

According to the Times-Picayune, the Road Home's expected new contractor, Hammerman & Gainer Inc., is not without some of its own controversies:
HGI rose to prominence as one of ICF's highest paid subcontractors, and not without some controversy. ICF originally hired HGI for a minor contract but turned it into the third-highest earner with no-bid change orders.

HGI was brought on to the Road Home team in late 2006 to do about $8 million worth of home damage inspections but took in seven times that much by early 2008 because lucrative appraisal and title work was tacked on to its existing contract in the spring of 2007. The assignment of additional work came even though the firm had no experience in title work, and its subsidiary, Team Title, had just three years of experience in the field.

When it first took on the job of coordinating Louisiana-licensed appraisers to set Road Home applicants' home values, HGI struggled to pay appraisers in a timely manner.