FEMA Improperly Paid Contractors over $600,000 for After-Hours Emergency Repairs
Case 3: An inspector employed by a different MD contractor told our investigators that she left the company after finding several maintenance inspections that had her name signed to them by another employee. The inspector provided our investigators with three inspection sheets that she insisted she did not sign. When our investigators confronted the supervisor with these allegations, she admitted that she had forged the inspection sheets.
Although we initially intended to test the $2.2 million in payments FEMA made for after-hours emergency repairs, we could not conduct this work because the data we received concerning these calls did not contain complete information. However, we were able to determine that FEMA spent over $600,000 for emergency repairs even though the invoices for these repairs should not have been approved because the housing units do not exist in FEMA’s databases.
FEMA’s records show that it paid for 12,045 after-hours emergency calls on 7,310 housing units from June 2006 to January 2007, for a total of $2.2 million in emergency repair payments. As part of our work, we attempted to test whether these payments were made for valid emergencies. To qualify as an emergency during the period of our review, a call had to have been received by FEMA’s call center between 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. Monday through Friday or on weekends. 24 In addition, according to the FEMA call center instructions, emergency maintenance involves, but is not limited to, requests to repair gas leaks, major water leaks, sewage leaks, major electrical malfunctions, lack of heat when the outside temperature is under 50 degrees, or lack or air conditioning when the outside temperature is over 85 degrees. The call center was supposed to document relevant requests, verify the emergency, and then forward the request to the MD contractor responsible for the unit. However, when we reviewed the call center data, we found that the records related to emergency calls were not complete and therefore we could not determine whether the contractors submitted billings for valid emergency calls or whether FEMA made payments for calls that met its emergency criteria. Specifically, FEMA’s database did not identify
the time and date the call was received. Although FEMA’s call center received 46,000 emergency calls from June 2006 through January 2007,
24FEMA subsequently eliminated this time requirement.
GAO-08-106 Hurricane Katrina