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Highlights

Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region of the United States and caused billions of dollars in damage. Hurricanes Rita and Wilma further exacerbated damage to the region. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), was tasked with the primary role of managing the federal relief and recovery efforts. This review was performed under the Comptroller General's authority because of widespread congressional interest in the response to this disaster. GAO examined whether the federal government was adequately tracking and reporting on the use of the funding provided in the four emergency supplemental appropriations acts enacted as of June 2006. GAO analyzed the emergency supplemental appropriations acts and conference reports, reviewed FEMA's required weekly reports, and interviewed federal agency officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Management and Budget To help ensure better accountability, provide additional transparency, and clearly identify the status of the hurricane-related funding provided by emergency supplemental appropriations at both the individual federal agency level as well as the governmentwide level, the Director, Office of Management and Budget should establish a framework for governmentwide reporting on the status of the hurricane-related funding. OMB could either collect and consolidate this information itself or designate another appropriate agency, such as the Department of the Treasury, to do so and report to the Appropriations Committees on a periodic basis.
Closed - Implemented
On March 19, 2007, OMB submitted a report, in response to a congressional inquiry, that compiled the status of governmentwide obligations and outlays of hurricane supplemental funds, by federal agency, for fiscal years 2005 and 2006, and the first quarter of fiscal year 2007. Also, according to OMB, the agency plans to continue issuing data calls to federal agencies and reporting these governmentwide obligations and outlays on a semi-annual basis. This reporting effectively implements our recommendation by reporting on the status of hurricane-related funding at both the individual federal agency level as well as the governmentwide level.
Federal Emergency Management Agency To improve the information on the status of hurricane relief and recovery funds provided in FEMA's weekly reports to the Appropriations Committees from a governmentwide perspective, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of FEMA to explain in the weekly reports how FEMA's reported obligations and expenditures for mission assignments do not reflect the status from a governmentwide perspective.
Closed - Implemented
On October 4, 2006, Public Law 109-295 was enacted and included language requiring DHS to implement this recommendation.
Federal Emergency Management Agency To improve the information on the status of hurricane relief and recovery funds provided in FEMA's weekly reports to the Appropriations Committees from a governmentwide perspective, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of FEMA to request and include actual obligation and expenditure data from agencies performing mission assignments on an established basis (e.g., monthly or quarterly).
Closed - Implemented
On October 4, 2006, Public Law 109-295 was enacted and included language requiring DHS to implement this recommendation.
Federal Emergency Management Agency To improve the information on the status of hurricane relief and recovery funds provided in FEMA's weekly reports to the Appropriations Committees from a governmentwide perspective, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of FEMA to include in the weekly report amounts reimbursed to other agencies that are in suspense because FEMA has not yet reviewed and approved the documentation supporting the expenditures.
Closed - Implemented
On October 4, 2006, Public Law 109-295 was enacted and included language requiring DHS to implement this recommendation.
Federal Emergency Management Agency To improve the information on the status of hurricane relief and recovery funds provided in FEMA's weekly reports to the Appropriations Committees from a governmentwide perspective, the Secretary of Homeland Security should direct the Director of FEMA to reiterate to agencies performing mission assignments its policies on (1) the detailed information required in supporting documentation for reimbursements, and (2) the timeliness of agency billings.
Closed - Implemented
On October 4, 2006, Public Law 109-295 was enacted and included language requiring DHS to implement this recommendation.

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