Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Corruption here? Check Pennsylvania Avenue first!

Two important conclusions can be drawn from Senate hearings yesterday on the $4.5 billion spent by FEMA and Corps of Engineers on Katrina cleanup thus far:

  1. "For all of the state's storied corruption and the defense its officials had to mount that relief money would not be squandered in Louisiana, the lion's share of waste occurred under the federal watch."

  2. "Tens of millions of dollars were frittered away in layers of subcontractors. What Washington and the nation need to realize, the Louisiana contingent argued, is the totals bandied about as earmarked for relief are, in fact, grotesquely inflated by misspending."
How did this happen?
Large companies ... subcontracted from 70 percent to 99 percent of their work. That led to a curious and costly arrangement: overhead and profit margins for the big companies of up to 47 percent, and multiple tiers of subcontractors that sometimes stretched five or six companies deep.
But we're not suppose to know -- soggy furniture and moldy sheetrock is a national security secret, according to Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, in command of the Army Corps of Engineers:
Strock said he didn't believe that information could be shared with the American public.
Well, after you learn how much the overcharges are costing taxpayers, it's easy to understand why the Corps brass might want to keep this secret:
"At one point the corps was in my office, urging me to cancel the (debris-removal) contract and go with them," [St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis] said.

As it happened, St. Tammany's in-place contracts when Katrina hit carried prices of between $7 and $14 per cubic yard, at least 50 percent lower than prices paid by the corps, according to most estimates. Davis estimated the savings to taxpayers in St. Tammany alone at $42 million by forgoing the corps' demand to help.

Oh, but here's where the truth is revealed -- but The Times-Picayune stopped short of naming names. These guys are all in the ... ahem ... front pocket of George W. Bush. If they're giving him a blow job, can we impeach?:
"Bechtel, CH2M Hill -- why do you need them?" [Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.] asked, citing two of the multinational companies that landed prime contracts. "They go out and subcontract 99 percent of this stuff anyway. Why can't you do that?"

When FEMA couldn't answer any questions ...
The senators appeared even angrier when FEMA simply blew off the second round of testimony, the one that featured local officials. A stunned Coburn stopped that portion of the hearing after a few minutes and asked whether any representative from FEMA had stayed to listen or take notes. For a moment no one spoke, and then Strock raised his hand.

"No, general, you're with the corps, not FEMA," Coburn said. "No one from FEMA stayed around to listen to this and hear what's going on? That's part of the problem right there."

Okay, just go read the whole Times-Picayune story written by James Varney.


At 4/11/2006 05:36:00 PM, Blogger Rob said...

Exactly. Same thing as in Iraq. Interesting that the Corpse has to keep it secret; same thing they did with their "report" on why the levees failed.


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