A federal auditor says the University of Southern
Mississippi Gulf Coast misused more than $5 million from FEMA for
Hurricane Katrina aid. Now the auditor is suggesting that FEMA demand
the university return that money.
The Department of Homeland Security's Inspector
General reviewed funds the campus received for rebuilding after
"The office of the inspector general goes by the
absolute policy, the way it was written before Hurricane Katrina ever
hit. Obviously those policies didn't take into account the devastation
that we would suffer and the conditions of which
we would find ourselves following the storm," USM Gulf Park Vice
President, Dr. Frances Lucas said.
In the report, the auditor says a portion of that
money shouldn't have been given to the campus because the university
got another agency to cover those costs. Dr. Lucas agrees that some
spending immediately following the storm didn't
follow federal guidelines on bids, but says taking proper bids at that
time was nearly impossible.
"Most of the time we followed them absolutely the
way we should have. We followed all the regulations, but just after the
storm there was no electricity, no computers. Contractors were gone.
Our jobs were to secure the buildings and keep
them safe so we found the best contractors we could find who were still
available. To come in and help us secure the buildings," Lucas said.
The USM campus took a pretty heavy blow from
Hurricane Katrina, but has obviously bounced back. Campus officials say
they believe they've spent the money responsibly. Therefore they're not
"The process from here is we have submitted our
report to MEMA. MEMA takes a week and looks at it and then they give it
to FEMA. Then FEMA determines if all the work we've done over the last
seven and a half years, upon which FEMA has
already agreed that these are the appropriate dollars spent. They
decide if they want to re verify their decisions that they have already
made. They determine whether or not they will do that. We believe that
they will reaffirm the decisions that FEMA has
already made," Lucas said.
Lucas said the main issue was documentation. She
said campus leaders believe they documented everything very well, but
the Federal Office wants even more documentation.
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