The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on the contracting processes of the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for disaster recovery efforts.
The report, entitled “Actions Needed to Improve the Use of Post-Disaster Contracts to Support Response and Recovery,” was released at the request of Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security.
Thompson said the contracting process for post-disaster recovery efforts lacks transparency due to “inconsistent implementation of the criteria for” tracking data related to post-disaster procurement.
“This GAO report makes clear that the federal government still has work to do when it comes to contracting for disaster recovery and response efforts. Spending on disaster contracts lacks much-needed transparency – taxpayers need to know what they’re funding to provide survivors assistance in the aftermath of a disaster. The GAO also found that disaster recovery contracting is not locally focused, so businesses feeling the pain of loss after a disaster are often not given the chance to help rehabilitate their community and restart their business,” Thompson said.
Thompson also said FEMA did not consistently justify awards to vendors outside the disaster area, meaning the agency may have missed opportunities to award contracts to local businesses. This would help jump-start the local economy. Further, Thompson said FEMA’s contracting workforce has dozens of vacancies, including contracting specialists and other critical leadership positions.
“The GAO report also highlights how FEMA is still undergoing serious staffing challenges that need to be addressed by the Administration,” Thompson said. “As we are about to enter the 2019 hurricane season, I urge DHS and FEMA to promptly fill these important vacancies and follow through on the GAO’s recommendations that will increase productivity and transparency in the disaster response and recovery process.”
Thompson sent a letter to Acting FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor seeking answers about the large slate of vacancies in FEMA’s contracting workforce.