ABC News' Jason Ryan reports: With Hurricane season just over 2 weeks old the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General has released a report finding that FEMA needs to improve how it handles it's disaster management contracts finding lost files, misplaced boxes and general shambles in the offices that oversaw billions of dollars of contracts. The DHS audit focuses on FEMA's Acquisition Management Division (AMD) which oversees the contracting of services during a disaster ranging from shelter, to food and ice shipments and other essential services.
The agency which encountered sever criticism in the wake of Hurricane Katrina has instituted some logistical reforms in mobilizing assets to disaster areas but the new report by the DHS Inspector General, which was conducted by Foxx & Company and independent public accounting firm found serious problems with FEMA's disaster contracting records. "After we selected a sample of contracts to review, it took AMD more than 2 months to provide the 32 contracts. Two of the contracts could not be located and substitute contracts had to be selected; however, the first substitute contract could not be located and another had to be selected. None of the files were in electronic format, which would have made them more accessible."
According to the report, "A senior AMD management official said that 'Lots of files are missing—probably 30%.'”
The Inspector General's review noted that part of the problem with finding the records could be attributed to the moving of the Acquisition Management Division's offices from FEMA's Headquarters building to a location called Patriot's Plaza about 2 blocks away in downtown Washington. The result of the move had the centralized file room strewn with open and ripped boxes, folder's laying about and stacks of papers laying around which contained the contracts.
See the before and after pic here.
According to the report FEMA has now organized a central records facility for the contracts and documents. The official leading the project told the audit team in the report, “There was no formal system in place and no one was responsible for centrally managing or monitoring the contract files.” The report notes that as of October 2008 80% of the files have been organized and scanned into an electronic database.
The report which tracked disaster response contracts in Fiscal Year 2007 noted, "FEMA’s AMD needs an effective contract management system to identify, manage, or monitor the contracts. It did not have a consolidated list of disaster contracts awarded in FY 2007 readily available and it took more than a month for AMD to compile one."
"FEMA’s tracking, managing, and monitoring of contracts needs improvement. Several contracts requested could not be found in a timely manner; some could not be found at all. Most of the contract files reviewed needed to have more documentation to demonstrate effective communications and knowledge transfer between contracting officials." The report noted.
The report found that FEMA was not in compliance with Federal Acquisition Regulations or DHS' own contracting policies which resulted with FEMA not being able to quickly identify deficiencies in contract performance and the inability to accurately track contracting costs. In recent years according to the Inspector General's review FEMA spent $1.5 Billion in fiscal year 2007 and due to the Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2005 FEMA's spending for fiscal year 2005 and 2006 was $5 Billion and $6 billion respectively.
Asked about the Inspector General report at a press conference today FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said he was still reviewing the report and said, "I will not be surprised to find that I'm going to agree with a lot of the findings. That['s] one of the things that we started doing with the post-Katrina emergency management reform act was to build an acquisition staff and bring in people to manage and acquire and do things in such a way — We didn't really have that capability in earlier disasters, so it was a challenge."