Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Waste, Fraud and Abuse -- and It's Not News
Waste, Fraud and Abuse -- and It's Not News
Harry Shearer

...Except in the Times-Picayune, because it's the waste, fraud and abuse -- usualy red-meat words for anti-government activists everywhere -- committed by FEMA and the Amy Corps of Engineers in carrying out relief and reconstruction efforts in and around New Orleans. Note, please, the number of Republicans -- Tom Coburn, Bobby Jindal, David Vitter -- weighing in with outrage at the amount of aid money that didn't reach people in need, and wonder, if you will, why this hearing didn't make a column inch in the NYT, WashPost, MSNBC, know the litany.
But check out these meaty paragraphs from the T-P:

In particular, the senators wanted to know why FEMA hired both the corps, which takes a percentage of the total contract in what amounts to a management fee, and then paid one of the mega-contractors to perform essentially the same role. In effect, testimony showed, FEMA built a thick layer of bureaucracy at the top that skimmed some money before the relief funds entered into the maze of layers below.

Burnette said she was intrigued by the idea. Neither she nor Strock could say what percentage the corps received on the blue roof and debris-removal tasks it handled. Spending to date on those contracts has topped $1.6 billion.

"Bechtel, CH2M Hill -- why do you need them?" Coburn asked, citing two of the multinational companies that landed prime contracts. "They go out and subcontract 99 percent of this stuff anyway. Why can't you do that?

Skimming? Isn't that what happens only in Vegas, and stays in Vegas?

A better question might be: why do we need the Corps of Engineers?

They contract out almost all their work past the design stage, to mega-contractors who subcontract all the real labor, after the skimming takes place. Why not skip the CoE layer, and just have a slimmed-down federal contracting office bid out the work, and hire outside independent engineers -- like the ones that forced the Corps to correct the repair work on the MR-GO levee? As indicated in a previous post, "Anybody See A Pattern", the Corps work in Iraq reconstruction (?) was similarly marked by what the less genteel might regard as skimming. It's past time to ask the Corps to leave the building.