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Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Disaster Relief: Improper and Potentially Fraudulent Individual Assistance Payments Estimated to Be Between $600 Million and $1.4 Billion

GAO-06-844T Published: Jun 14, 2006. Publicly Released: Jun 14, 2006.
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Hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed homes and displaced millions of individuals. In the wake of these natural disasters, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) responded to the need to provide aid quickly through the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) program, which provides housing assistance, real and personal property assistance, and for other immediate, emergency needs. As of February 2006, FEMA made 2.6 million payments totaling over $6 billion. Our testimony today will (1) provide an estimate of improper and potentially fraudulent payments through February 2006 related to certain aspects of the disaster registrations, (2) identify whether improper and potentially fraudulent payments were made to registrants who were incarcerated at the time of the disaster, (3) identify whether FEMA improperly provided registrants with rental assistance payments at the same time it was paying for their lodging at hotels, and (4) review FEMA's accountability over debit cards and controls over proper debit card usage. To estimate the magnitude of IHP payments made on the basis of invalid registrations, we selected a random statistical sample of 250 payments made to hurricanes Katrina and Rita registrants as of February 2006. We also conducted data mining and investigations to further illustrate the effects of control breakdowns.

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AccountabilityCheck disbursement or controlCorrectional facilitiesDisaster relief aidErroneous paymentsFraudHousing allowancesHurricane KatrinaHurricane RitaIdentity verificationInternal controlsPersonal propertyPrisonersProgram abusesReal property