Wednesday, September 07, 2011

State oversight of homeland security grants criticized in federal audit

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram broke some new ground on Sunday with a story by Darren Barbee voicing federal criticisms of the state's management of homeland security grants. The story opened:
In the years after the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Texas has grabbed at least $1.7 billion in federal Homeland Security grants, with large chunks of the money spent to beef up law enforcement communication and border security.

But a Star-Telegram examination of thousands of purchases also found a hodgepodge of spending, some of which might have taxpayers scratching their heads: a $21 fish tank in Seguin, a $24,000 latrine on wheels in Fort Worth, and a real pork project -- a hog catcher in Liberty County.

Homeland Security paid for body bags, garbage bags and Ziploc bags.

If taxpayers had a say-so, they might have gone along with some purchases, such as $24,012 in body armor for the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority. But what about the two 2011 Camaros, each $30,884, used in Kleberg County border enforcement?

A report this year by the inspector general of the U.S. Homeland Security Department criticized the state's management of Homeland Security grants from 2006 to 2008. While the audit showed that the state was generally efficient in administering the grant programs, it said the state passed along Homeland Security money to local governments without adequately defined goals and objectives to strengthen preparedness and response to attacks or disasters.

The state also failed to adequately monitor how cities and counties or others getting money were performing their responsibilities, the report says. Instead, the state asked local officials to rate their own performance. The audit recommended that the state develop goals, milestones and work tasks to assess and improve that performance.
For the life of me I can't find the audit online, and the Startlegram failed to link to it. (If one of you finds it, dear readers, please pass it along.) Grits has criticized these grants as wasteful, so I'm scarcely surprised to read that assessment. One strongly suspects that state border security grants are overseen with even less rigor.


Anonymous said...

And the Lege cut the Texas Forestry Service $34 million. We could use that many right now here in Cass, Camp, Marion and Upshur County to fight these fires that are devouring this part of Texas.

We could use some of that $34 million and some Homeland Security money here right now in NE Texas!

BarkGrowlBite said...

Nothing really new here. During my adult lifetime I have seen millions and millions of federal dollars for local and state police gone to waste. I've seen closets at police stations crammed full of the latest technology because no one had the ability to use these devices. I've seen small-town police agencies by tank-like vehicles - for what God only knows. And the list goes on an on.

Grits old boy, your post just shows how easy it is to spend someone else's money. But then, it is really our money, isn't it?

A Texas PO said...

I think that's the audit they're referring to. DHS grants have been abused nationwide. In 2009, after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in American Samoa, a DHS OIG audit on DHS grant funds found that the territorial government was spending emergency preparedness funds on flat screen tvs and desks, and funds for hazmat vehicles were spent buying SUVs that no one was able to locate... on an island that's only 22 miles long and 3 miles wide. Yes, Texas needs to do a better job monitoring these funds (a fish tank in Seguin? Really?), but DHS also needs to do a better job vetting grant requests before sending money all over the place.