Au­dit says to take back $2 bil­lion

FEMA re­jects that fixes to pipes, sew­ers were tied to pre-Ka­t­rina fail­ures

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL -

NEW OR­LEANS — The Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency should take back $2 bil­lion dol­lars in grants ap­proved to re­pair New Or­leans sew­ers and wa­ter pipes dam­aged by Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina and to re­pair streets af­ter­ward, a fed­eral au­dit says. FEMA re­jected the find­ing.

The Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fice pre­pared the au­dit. It said the pipes were old and in bad con­di­tion be­fore the storm, and the city didn’t have pa­per­work to prove the dam­age was dis­as­ter-re­lated, news out­lets re­ported.

FEMA has agreed with 100 of 103 au­dits from the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fice, but this is one of the three ex­cep­tions, the agency said in a news re­lease Wed­nes­day.

“Through­out the au­dit process, agency staff pro­vided de­tailed doc­u­men­ta­tion,” it said.

The FEMA grants make up most of what the city has to be­gin work on an es­ti­mated $9 bil­lion re­pair back­log, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports.

How­ever, the mat­ter may not go any fur­ther un­less the in­spec­tor gen­eral ap­peals to higher author­i­ties in the U.S. Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity, The New Or­leans Ad­vo­cate re­ported.

Teams from FEMA and the city “went over ev­ery mile of street in the city,” Cedric Grant, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of New Or­leans’ Sew­er­age & Wa­ter Board, told The Ad­vo­cate. He called it “the most com­pre­hen­sive re­view of a road sys­tem for dam­age that FEMA has ever done.”

The au­dit “de­fies logic,” Zach But­ter­worth, Mayor Mitch Lan­drieu’s ex­ec­u­tive coun­sel and fed­eral lob­by­ist, told The Times-Picayune. “We’re just go­ing to push back very strongly against this.”

“Re­gard­less of its age, the New Or­leans in­fra­struc­ture was func­tion­ing to serve a pop­u­la­tion of 445,000 prior to Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina,” FEMA wrote in a re­sponse in­cluded with the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s re­port and quoted by WWLTV. “This in­fra­struc­ture was dam­aged by Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina and FEMA ap­pro­pri­ately lim­ited the ap­proved fund­ing to Ka­t­rina-re­lated dis­as­ter dam­age.”

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