Amid allegations of fraud, missing and wrongly moved federal funds and a cover-up by the Inspector General’s Office, U.S. Senators Barbara Mikulski and Paul Sarbanes, both Democrats from Maryland, have called for a Department of Justice investigation into the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The senators also have requested Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to step in and personally oversee problems with the agency.
The charges stem from information reported by government whistleblowers and a retired fraud detection expert, according to Mikulski and Sarbanes. In a sworn statement from a law enforcement officer, Counsel to Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin reportedly was heard to say internal documents containing information regarding wrongdoing on the part of his agency needed to be returned, with all copies destroyed and there is no desire to investigate the wrongdoing.
Witnesses report the call included a litany of alleged efforts by IG agents to intimidate witnesses and cover up wrongdoing within FEMA. The call was also videotaped by CBS television.
FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has come under scrutiny since thousands of Hurricane Isabel flood victims filed complains an]bout claims and some remain living in campers more than a year after the loss. In March the U.S. Senate took the unprecedented step of directing FEMA’s NFIP to reopen 24,000 flood claims and conduct an independent review – the largest such event in FEMA’s history.
In the following months, the Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith, a former Circuit Court Judge, called for the U.S. Attorney to investigate whether Computer Sciences Corporation, the corporation responsible for carrying out the day-to-day functions of the NFIP, was “thwarting” the efforts of Isabel victims to receive fair settlements. In April Senator Mikulski called for the IG to investigate. In June, President George W. Bush signed into law the reauthorization of the Flood Insurance Act with a call for the General Accounting Office (GAO) to investigate. The GAO investigation is due to be completed by June.
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