A congressional report released Thursday slammed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in hurricane relief and national security money on frivolous purchases and mismanagement of contracts.
The report, prepared by staff of the House Committee on Government Reform, echoed an investigative report issued last week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). It highlighted several examples involving the agencies within the massive department formed after 9/11. The Los Angeles Times and the Shreveport Times reported several of the incidents:
- The Border Patrol paid $20 million for camera systems that failed to work or were never installed.
- A $10-billion border security program meant to track visitors' U.S. entries and departures failed to monitor the departures and was vulnerable to unauthorized access.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) spent more than $68,000 on 2,000 sets of dog booties for canine units. The booties couldn’t be used and remain in storage.
- Customs and Border Protection ordered 37 $2,500 rain jackets for agents to wear while training at an agency firing range, which, it turned out, is closed when it rains.
- The Secret Service purchased 12 iPod Nanos and 42 iPod Shuffles for "training and data storage."
- FEMA can't account for 12 of 20 boats its employees purchased for $208,000 per vessel.
A similar GAO investigation looked at FEMA’s purchase card program, finding that “a weak control environment and a breakdown in key controls” exposed DHS to fraud and abuse.
Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke pointed out that the agency disciplined 70 employees in the wake of the scandal, and said that "Comparatively, we're talking about a small number of bad apples."
Thursday's Shreveport Times editorial called that a “minimization,” saying that “such explanations no doubt fall on unsympathetic ears among Hurricane Katrina victims.”
In a measure of how much money has poured out of the department, the report noted that agency spending rocketed from $3.5 billion in 2003, to $10 billion two years later. Over the same period, the percentage of contracts the agency awarded without full and open competition increased from 19 percent to 55 percent, the report said.