(Photo: Reuters/Lee Celano)
Following Hurricane Katrina about $700M is missing and unaccounted for in aid money given to help victims fortify their homes from future floods, according to a new inspector general's report out this week.
Congressional leaders have called the development a troubling, and a clear sign that tighter controls are needed to regulate where money goes to in the aftermath of disasters.
According to ABC News, the Department of Housing and Urban Development is applying pressure on the state of Louisiana to recover the money, which reportedly was given for homeowners to elevate their houses, but which "certainly did not go to elevating homes and preventing future damage from storms," according to the inspector general, David Montoya.
Montoya has told ABC News that there was just a "slim" chance at best that any of the money would be reclaimed now.
He said, "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."
He added, "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."
In other cases it has been revealed that other New Orleans residents made false statements to gain government grants, but then later failed to use the money to fix their homes. In one such case, federal prosecutors are now pursuing criminal charges against one New Orleans woman.
Congress previously approved a $29 billion Hurricane Katrina relief effort, and $1 billion was allocated to the Louisiana Road Home Program, which sought to elevate and repair homes so they could be protected against future floods and storms.
However, an investigation found that 70 percent of that money had not been accounted for. According to ABC News, more than 24,000 homeowners who each accepted grants of $30,000 were unable to show they used the money to fix their houses.
Montoya has said, "There is fault all the way around. Clearly the homeowner accepting up to $30,000 to elevate their home is at fault for not using the money that it was intended for."
He added, "Clearly the state's at fault for not doing a better job of due diligence if you will for ensuring that these homes were being elevated."
Here is a video documentary into Hurricane Katrina: