One Tragedy Has Spawned So Many Others

June 15, 2012 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

Hurricane Katrina caused so much devastation to lives and property when it roared through the Gulf Coast almost seven years ago. Unfortunately, attempts at recovery have been just as tragic as federal emergency funding has continued to go misspent.

I’ve written various stories in the Single Audit Information Service and Federal Grants Management Handbook related to incidences of fraud, waste and abuse of federal assistance designed to help rebuild following Hurricane Katrina. Now I’ve come across this story involving a grants manager in Bayou La Batre, Ala., who was found guilty on five counts of misuse of federal funds.

A federal jury ruled that the city’s grants manager, Janey Galbraith, falsified documents and committed fraud while handling a pair of housing grants after Hurricane Katrina. The counts included wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and obstruction of a federal audit. The town’s mayor, Stan Wright, was also charged in the scandal but his trial has been postponed.

Such is the problem in instances where the Federal Emergency Management Agency pumps a large amount of assistance monies to small communities that may have little oversight structure to ensure the proper handling of the funds. I can’t say I’m surprised that these things happen, but it is upsetting. Grants managers should know better.

I guess I point these out as a word of caution: Don’t let this happen to you! Proper oversight of federal funds is critically important and attempts to commit fraud can be devastating – like a hurricane.

What is your reaction to this case? Have you seen similar instance of fraud? Let us know.

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