Monday, October 3, 2005

Sens. Coburn & Obama: Rebuilding with accountability

"So far, Congress has approved $62 billion for Gulf Coast relief and rebuilding. In the few short weeks since Hurricane Katrina hit, the government already has spent $14 billion, nearly the entire amount spent on the deadly Northridge Earthquake that devastated Los Angeles in 1994."

"Most of this money will go directly to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is twelvefold the money FEMA was given last year—more than it has ever before been entrusted to spend. If FEMA's record during the rescue effort and in the years before indicates how it will perform in the rebuilding task, this should concern every taxpayer and every citizen who wants to help the millions of Americans devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

"Unfortunately, even before this storm, rebuilding efforts involving FEMA and other government agencies have a history of fraud, corruption and waste when there is no oversight or accountability on how the funds are spent."

"We must ensure the Gulf Coast rebuilding has strict oversight and accountability so taxpayer dollars are not wasted or abused. This is why we have introduced legislation called the OVERSEE Act that would create a Chief Financial Officer to oversee all expenditures associated with Hurricane Katrina relief and reconstruction. The Hurricane Katrina CFO would be staffed with experts from relevant federal agencies and would have management and oversight over any agency using federal funds for the recovery. The CFO will be appointed by the president but must be Senate-confirmed.

"The CFO will issue monthly financial reports to Congress for oversight, and the Government Accountability Office will issue quarterly reviews of the CFO work and recovery activities. Our bill will give legal authority to one person to cut through red tape and make financial decisions that involve multiple government offices and agencies. Thus authorizing one CFO is the only way to achieve a coordinated effort.

"But the important thing is this bill would ensure that public funds are allocated properly before they are spent, not after. We believe the president's proposal for a team of inspectors general is not a good substitute for one chief financial officer carefully watching dollars as they go out the door. A clear lesson in this tragedy is that one point person tends to be more effective than many point persons. Currently, an inspector general can examine expenditure of public funds only after they are spent. We need oversight before the fact, not after—when it is too late to undo mistakes." ...

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