HUD's report found that more than 24,000 homeowners who took checks of $30,000 could not prove they had used the money to repair their homes.
(Photo : Reuters)
Attention critics of government waste, look no further: Roughly $700 million in Hurricane Katrina relief funds is unaccounted for, according to a newly released report from The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Inspector General.
The missing money was allotted as part the $1 billion Louisiana Road Home program, that was supposed to be used to for the elevating and repairing of homes to protect them from future storms and flooding. The initiative was part of the $29 billion Hurricane Katrina relief fund Congress approved after the storm in 2005. HUD's report discovered that more than 24,000 homeowners who took checks of $30,000 could not prove they had used the money to repair their homes.
"We have $700 million that we can't account for and that certainly did not go to elevating homes and preventing future damage from storms," HUD Inspector General David Montoya told ABC News.
"This is money we can't afford to lose. This is money that we don't get back and this is money that we can't put toward other disaster victims."
HUD is now leaning on Louisiana to find the missing the money. However, even Montoya admits the chances of recovering the money are "slim, at best." He characterized the entire effort to stabilize and elevate homes in New Orleans as only slightly better than a total catastrophe.
Instances of government waste and fraudulent claims have consistently escalated following Hurricane Katrina, increasing the pressure on HUD to ensure that all the money allocated to Hurricane Sandy relief is used properly. Government officials with the agency claim that stricter measures are already set up for the most recent spate of relief efforts on the East coast that weren't in use yet at the time of Hurricane Katrina.
Inspector General Montoya says HUD will suggest relief funds are distributed to individuals only after their projects are completed for future disaster relief efforts.