The Government Accountability Office found three major problems in the awarding of contracts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

In a report, the GAO said there was inadequate planning and preparation in anticipating requirements for needed goods and services. Some key agencies did not always have adequate plans for contracting in a major contingency situation. For example, FEMA did not adequately anticipate needs for temporary housing and public buildings.

Second, the report said that there was a lack of clearly communicated responsibilities for contracting activities across agencies and jurisdictions.

Third, and finally, there were insufficient numbers and inadequate deployment of personnel to provide for effective contractor oversight. For example, FEMA's contracts to install temporary housing in four states had only 17 of the 27 technical monitors that were needed for oversight.

GAO has identified practices in the public and private sectors that provide insight into how federal agencies can better manage their disaster-related procurements, including:

  • Developing knowledge of contractor capabilities and prices by identifying commodities and services and establishing vendor relationships before they are needed;
  • Establishing a scalable operations plan to adjust the level of capacity required to effectively respond to needs;
  • Formally assigning and communicating disaster-related responsibilities, with joint training for government and contractor personnel; and,
  • Providing sufficient numbers of field-level contracting staff with the authority needed to meet mission requirements.

The full report is available at www.gao.gov/new.items/d06714t.pdf.

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