FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2016
MEDIA CONTACTS: Carole Trottere, Rebecca Cheng, Sam Marksheid, and Vicki DiStefano | (516) 869-7794
Town Calls Office of Inspector General’s Audit of FEMA Funds ‘Deeply Flawed’
North Hempstead, NY – Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth said she disputes the audit findings by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) which took a look at the handling of FEMA disaster recovery funding following 2011’s Superstorm Sandy under the previous administration. The OIG’s report charges that FEMA should recover $9.9 million of the $36.6 million awarded to the Town for Hurricane Sandy damages. According to the Town, nearly half of the money the OIG is seeking to recover was never even received by the Town.
“We trust that FEMA will find that no money should be recovered based on this deeply flawed report,” said Supervisor Bosworth. “We believe that FEMA will recognize that we followed procedures and were careful custodians of the federal disaster relief funds.”
Supervisor Bosworth has reached out to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s office to make him aware of the audit.
Out of the 31 Town projects that received more than $36.6 million in FEMA funding, the OIG questioned procurement procedures for $4.8 million in contracts for debris removal which the OIG claims did “not meet federal standards” and $3.2 million for “costs claimed twice.” Other claims by the OIG included $562,387 for “unsupported costs” and $405,158 for costs that were “paid by insurance.”
Regarding the $4.8 million in contracts for debris removal, which the OIG stated did not fall under “emergency guidelines” to remove, Supervisor Bosworth said, “Debris removal was an emergency after Sandy and we think that FEMA will agree, even if auditors think that our Town residents should have been driving around fallen trees and debris for months following the hurricane.”
According to the Town, the contract pricing for debris removal was approved by FEMA and to the extent the Town did not use sealed bids, these emergency contracts were authorized under New York State law.
“And post Sandy clean-up was certainly an emergency,” added Supervisor Bosworth.
In its response to the OIG report, the New York State Office of Emergency Management Oversight stated: “This finding is unsupported as it ignores: 1) the exigent circumstances in which the firms operated; 2) the fact that two firms were competitively procured; and 3) that FEMA has already determined all these costs to be reasonable.”
Regarding the OIG’s findings that $3.2 million was for “costs claimed twice,” the Town responded that OIG admitted that the supposed $3.2 million duplicate payment was already ‘resolved and closed.’ “There is no $3.2 million payment to recover.”
The New York State response: “The OIG report claims $3,229,478 was claimed twice by the Town, and leaves the impression the Town actually received these funds from FEMA. In fact, DHSES, FEMA and the Town identified the duplication and corrected the error during the reconciliation process…Since the funds were de-obligated and never reimbursed to the Town, the OIG should correct the misstatements in the report indicating these funds as still being owed to FEMA.”
The OIG also questioned the records maintained by employees of the Town’s Solid Waste Management Authority (SWMA), finding $562,387 to be “unsupported.” However, the Town stated that it “provided a spreadsheet summary and has records to show GPS location and fuel use by SWMA employees during the emergency clean-up period.”
The Town also disputed the OIG’s assertion that $405,158 was paid by FEMA, when in fact the $405,158 was paid out as an insurance claim by the Town’s insurer.