The U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Ken Mead has announced his office is conducting an audit and investigation of the handling of the department’s response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Mead announced news of the audit in an Oct. 6 memorandum to all secretarial officers and operating administrators.
Mead said that during the evacuation and hurricane response, personnel from the Office of Inspector General (OIG) were in Mississippi and Louisiana working with local law enforcement agencies, as well as watching disaster spending. Now, Mead wrote, the focus is “moving from immediate relief to longer-term recovery and reconstruction.” He added, “This work is directed toward preventing fraud, waste and abuse and detecting and prosecuting fraud.”
Last week, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta told an appropriations subcommittee that the cost to restore transportation infrastructure in the Gulf Coast region could reach as high as $1.5-$2 billion. Mead’s memorandum said the latest estimates indicate the U.S. DOT will obligate $367 million on behalf of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The OIG work will focus on the U.S. DOT Office of Intelligence, Security and Emergency Response (S-60); the Federal Highway Administration; Federal Transit Administration; Federal Aviation Administration; Maritime Administration; Federal Railroad Administration; and, state departments of transportation. The OIG will specifically:
Verify that expenditures of federal funds on transportation services and programs are being appropriately tracked by the operating administrations;
Proactively ensure that operating administrations and state DOTs exercise adequate oversight of U.S. DOT expenditures and put systems in place to make certain that funds are appropriately spent;
Audit selected projects, grants and contracts;
Conduct fraud awareness and prevention activities to alert federal, state and local government agencies; and
Investigate allegations of fraud involving transportation funded projects, to include presenting cases to the U.S. Department of Justice for prosecution, participating in resulting prosecutions and ensuring that operating administrations and states take appropriate suspension and debarment actions.