Fraud alleged in Katrina programs

Homeland Security plans to review no-bid contracts

Katrina's Wake


WASHINGTON - The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security said yesterday that his office has received allegations of fraud and waste in the multibillion-dollar relief programs linked to Hurricane Katrina and would investigate how no-bid contracts were awarded to several large, politically well-connected companies.

The inspector general, Richard L. Skinner, who serves as the department's internal watchdog, said in an interview that he intended to be "extremely aggressive" in monitoring the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will receive most of the $62 billion in disaster-response funds approved by Congress last week.

Spokesmen at FEMA have been unwilling to provide details of the decision-making process that is being used to award contracts for the hurricane-relief program, nor have they identified the agency officials who are making the procurement decisions.

Skinner, a former acting inspector general of FEMA, would not discuss details of the allegations that his office has received in recent days involving Katrina relief projects. But he said he was dispatching about 30 investigators and auditors to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama next week.

He said that his investigators would focus on several no-bid contracts awarded during the past two weeks to large, politically influential companies, including the Fluor Corp. of California, a major donor to the Republican Party, and the Shaw Group, based in Baton Rouge, La. Shaw is a client of Joe M. Allbaugh, a consultant who is the former head of FEMA and was President Bush's campaign manager in 2000.

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