The government lacks a full accounting of what it spends on disaster relief contracts and agencies further are not fully complying with preferences that such contracts be awarded to local companies to help affected economies recover, GAO has said.
Federal agencies obligated at least $5 billion in response to natural disasters including hurricanes and wildfires during 2017, a report said, three-fourths of which came from the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA. However, the full extent is not known because DHS stopped tracking spending related to several of the hurricanes less than a year after they hit, in contrast to past practice in which spending was tracked for at least five years–and as long as 13 in one case.
GAO further found that Corps of Engineers officials “were not consistently aware” of the regulation defining what constitutes a local area, and that contracting officers there, at FEMA and at the Coast Guard “did not consistently write justifications for awards to non-local vendors outside the disaster area, as required.”
“FEMA developed guidance to address this, but the Coast Guard and USACE have not issued guidance or tools to address this requirement. Without addressing planning challenges, agencies may miss opportunities to award contracts to local businesses in the disaster area to the extent feasible and practicable, which could help jump-start the local economy,” it said.