DHS inspector general turns up the heat

Published 7 December 2006

Arrest and conviction rates for post-Katrina contracting fraud are skryrocketing, even as total complaints decrease; impressive new zealousness strikes fear into the unethical, but the lawyers are happy; DHS has more than 2,500 open cases pending

The Federal Emergency Management Agency was severely criticized for its response to Hurricane Katrina last year, but it seems the agency is making up for its lackadaisacal behavior by coming down hard on Katrina-related fraud — not by citizens who used to relief money to buy pornography, but by contractors handling clean up and construction efforts. More than 300 people have been arrested, and 243 convicted, in the past six months for contracting malfeasance. That was a 61 percent increase in arrests over the previous six-month period and a 98 percent jump in convictions. DHS also reported more than 2,517 open cases, 750 more than in the previous period.

Nevertheless, this jump in arrests and convictions may be the high water mark. In the six-month period immediately following Hurricane Katrina, the DHS inspector general received more than 11,000 complaints. The most recent period turned up less than half of that, with 4,314 complaints filed, perhaps suggesting that while the total number of complaints has decreased, the proportion of solid, winnable cases has increased — or that the lighter caseload makes it easier for prosectors to focus on particular cases. Either way, this is good news for the taxpayer, but bad new for the unethical contractor. Lawyers…prepare your briefs!

-read more in Jonathan Marino’s GovExec report