Every time we begin to think the government’s handling of the Hurricane Katrina disaster could not have been worse--it gets worse.
· “Two and a half years after Hurricane Katrina, tens of thousands of homeowners are still waiting for their government rebuilding checks, and many complain they can’t even get their calls returned. But the company that holds the [Road Home] contract to distribute the aid is doing quite well.”--AP, 3/14/08
One of the reasons the contractor, ICF International of Fairfax, VA, is doing so well is that outgoing Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco raised the contract ceiling on the 3-year “Road Home” agreement from $756 million to $912 million, just before she left office. This was despite the fact that the Louisiana legislature had “expressed unanimous disapproval of ICF's performance at the end of 2006” and wanted to fire them.
· “It is outrageous that ICF couldn’t do the job for more than $750 million and that they were given a pay raise after their history of disappointing service,”-- Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, Blanco’s successor
The Blanco administration not only failed to tell the public about the raise given to ICF International; it neglected to mention it during a budget update to the Louisiana’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee, even though the contract change was made a week earlier. Reporters from the Times-Picayune discovered the increase during a review of the latest budget estimates, noticing that the Louisiana Recovery Authority had set aside additional money to pay for the increase.
The reason given for the substantial increase was “to compensate ICF for paying out more homeowner grants than initially expected,”--even though the original contract made no mention of how many claims ICF was expected to process. This justification might seem a little more reasonable if ICF had done its job properly; but they didn’t.
· A private contractor under investigation for the compensation it received to run the Road Home grant program for Katrina victims says that in the rush to deliver aid to homeowners in need some people got too much. Now it wants to hire a separate company to collect millions in grant overpayments.”--AP, 3/30/08
The extent of the problem was revealed on March 11, when ICF issued a request for bids from companies for the job of collecting the overpayments. They say that there were somewhere between 1,000 to 5,000 grants that warranted action; and “The average amount to be collected is estimated to be approximately $35,000, but in some cases may be as high as $100,000 to $150,000.”
· “They want people to pay for their incompetence and their mistakes. .... People relied, to their detriment, on their (ICFs) expertise and rebuilt their houses and now they want to squeeze this money back out of them.”--Frank Silvestri, co-chair of the Citizen's Road Home Action Team, a group born of frustrations with ICF
...and the Katrina disaster continues.
In its relentless drive to privatize all government functions, the Bush Administration has contracted with private companies to collect unpaid taxes. This has worked about as well as all the rest of their privatization schemes. It costs more than it is worth.
· “Since 2006, the [IRS] has used three companies to go after a $1 billion slice of the nation's unpaid taxes. Despite aggressive collection tactics, the companies have rounded up only $49 million, little more than half of what it has cost the IRS to implement the program. The debt collectors have pocketed commissions of up to 24 percent.”--The Washington Post, 4/15/08
One day in Bu$hWorld--April 22, 2008:
· The dollar fell to a new low ($0.62) against the euro. (CBS News)