Audit: Katrina cleanup costs varied widely

DHS IG suggests instituting info-sharing procedures

Agencies sometimes paid significantly more than necessary for the same type of debris removal and demolition work because they didn't share contracting information, an audit has found.

The Homeland Security Department's Office of the Inspector General said the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not check how much the Army Corps of Engineers or local governments were paying for the same post-Hurricane Katrina work throughout the New Orleans region, according to an Aug. 16 audit. As a result, contract costs varied widely from contract to contract, the IG said.

Following Katrina, local governments, the Corps and FEMA all handled debris removal work in neighboring counties and parishes. But FEMA and Corps field workers did not exchange contract information because they were concerned that would be against policy and someone would leak the pricing information to the public, the IG found.

But FEMA encourages staff members to evaluate data from other agencies on similar contracts, the IG said.

"Both FEMA and [the Corps] could use this information, as part of their contract review process, to analyze the disparity between ? contracts and to ensure the government receives the best price," the audit states. Making comparisons "is often beneficial in estimating contract costs," the IG said.

FEMA and Corps workers told the IG they should have shared the information, such as the cost per cubic yard for debris removal and demolition, according to the audit.

The IG recommended that FEMA establish procedures to routinely exchange cost data with the Corps to ensure reasonable pricing, the audit states.

Matthew Weigelt writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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