A federal review of 13 major contracts awarded in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina pointed to poor communication as the reason behind the waste and mismanagement of some supplies and services that went unused.

The Government Accountability Office randomly selected key contracts approved by the General Services Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

All three agencies are looking to address the major issues identified by the GAO, which included:

  • Inadequate planning and preparation to anticipate requirements for needed goods and services;
  • Lack of clearly communicated responsibilities across agencies and jurisdictions; and,
  • Insufficient numbers and inadequate deployment of personnel to provide for effective contractor oversight.

Among the report's many anecdotes, FEMA apparently spent $3 million for 4,000 base camp beds that were never used and in another instance, spent approximately $10 million to renovate 160 rooms in military barracks in Alabama for use as temporary housing. When officials finally decided to close the facility, after ignoring local officials who said it was not needed, the barracks had only six occupants. Another story entails the travails of coordinating an order of ice between FEMA and Army Corps personnel -- a process which resulted in a double order of ice and a lack of distribution sites available to handle the volume ordered.The full report is available at www.gao.gov/new.items/d06461r.pdf.

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