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September 12, 2005

The political dimension...

Continuing the discussion started below in Let the REAL looting begin and Start with FedBizOpps:

Good many Congresspeople are worried that the billions they're throwing into hurricane relief won't be spent as best it could. History's on the side of the worriers -- in fact, history indicates the certainty that some portion of the money will be wasted through various abuses.

How to minimize it? House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi thinks an independent commission to oversee anti-fraud efforts is the right step. If you care about your tax dollars, don't dismiss the idea just because of the source.

Congress has already pushed $62.5 billion into the relief funnel, will undoubtedly add many billions even while it's "removes some of the normal restrictions and red tape", as House Leader Dennis Hastert put it when he and Senate Leader Bill Frist announced the formation of joint congressional committee to handle a whole range of Katrina issues.

The first purpose of the committee was to head off hearings into FEMA failures called by Sen. Susan Collins, the Maine Republican who heads the Homeland Security Committee. Frist named her Senate leader of the new joint committee, and she agreed to serve, though noting that she hasn't seen all "of the details of the composition, mandate, and authority of this joint committee."

It is, incidentally, the lack of "details of the composition, mandate, and authority of this joint committee," that prompts Rep. Pelosi's suggestion that an independent commission is needed.

(As an aside, let me say that Rep. Pelosi could urge her party not to beat up on House members expressing concern about accountability. U.S. Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who was among a dozen who voted against the second aid bill because it is so vague on how the money is to used, got kicked around pretty hard by national and state Dems.)

Though it already has such agencies as Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office to help it keep track, Congress can still get lost when lots of money gets spent real fast.

The money we're pouring into Iraq includes some $9 billion unaccounted for because of "inefficiencies and bad management:," as an inspector general's report put it.

Given so many of the same cast of characters will be involved in the hurricane relief effort, that indpendent commission is sounding pretty good.

Posted by jcb at September 12, 2005 03:08 PM