Nearly $250 million in spending unresolved in Louisiana’s storm response programs since 2008

Audits find $33 million in ‘exceptions’ from last year

By: - April 4, 2022 4:55 pm
Damaged homes in Chauvin, Louisiana, after Hurricane Ida

Debris sits outside of Chauvin homes after Hurricane Ida. (Photo by Rachel Mipro/Louisiana Illuminator)

State auditors have provided an analyses of Louisiana’s storm response efforts from 2021. Such spending has been reviewed going back to 2008, and officials with the governor’s office say they have addressed most of the issues uncovered in the audits. But even with that high success rate, $246 million in reimbursements to local governments over the past 14 years have not been verified to determine if the money was correctly spent or accurately calculated.   

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor issued reports Monday on disbursements from the state’s Hazard Mitigation Grant and Public Assistance programs that the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness administers. The reports cover money doled out from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2021, and includes the state’s ongoing response to Hurricane Ida, which made landfall Aug. 29.

Going back to reimbursements awarded since April 2008, state auditors have noted $1.5 billion in exceptions in the Public Assistance program where they could not determine if money was properly awarded. In her response to the auditor’s report, assistant deputy director Lynne Browning said GOHSEP has resolved nearly 90% or $1.37 billion of those questioned costs. That would leave more than $150 million unresolved. 

In the Hazard Mitigation program, exceptions have totaled more than $307 million since 2008. The audit report said $211 million in awards has been resolved or 69%, leaving $96 million unverified.  

For 2021, auditors analyzed more than 2,300 expense reimbursements. Their reports indicate the most prominent concerns were identified before final payments from the program were made.

Auditors found nearly $39.7 million in hazard mitigation funds were reimbursed correctly and accurately. The program’s money can be used for projects such as elevating flood-prone structures, building safe rooms and local drainage work. 

Exceptions were noted in 58 hazard mitigation reimbursement requests totaling $6.5 million. Out of that amount, auditors were initially unable to confirm that proper procurement guidelines were followed for purchases worth $5.5 million. In a subsequent analysis, GOHSEP either provided the needed documentation for the disbursements or reduced the requested amount awarded.

The Public Assistance program pays for debris removal, needed infrastructure improvements and emergency protective measures following a storm. Auditors verified $474 million in disbursements from July through December 2021. Another $101 million in exceptions were identified.  

The bulk of the public assistance exceptions involved contract work, with 266 occurrences accounting for $86.4 million in questioned expenses. In terms of the type of exception, a lack of supporting documentation led the way with 277 occurrences totaling $80.1 million.

Out of the $101 million in exceptions, the auditors report said $68.7 million were resolved during the review period. That would leave nearly $32 million unresolved.


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Louisiana Illuminator
Louisiana Illuminator

The Louisiana Illuminator is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization driven by its mission to cast light on how decisions are made in Baton Rouge and how they affect the lives of everyday Louisianians, particularly those who are poor or otherwise marginalized.