By Aliya Sternstein 06/10/2011
Federal inspectors are calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to employ data mining software -- similar to that used by the board monitoring stimulus spending-- for preventing future losses, now that the agency is saddled with recovering about $643 million worth of potential overpayments for housing assistance.
In a new report (PDF), Homeland Security Department investigators found that FEMA strengthened efforts to prevent fraud after wrongly compensating phony victims in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but the agency's ability to identify potential wrongdoing is handicapped by, among other things, a lack of sophisticated computer technology. Specifically, FEMA does not have programs capable of mining public records and law enforcement data to spot patterns of illegal activity among applicants who have filed for disaster relief.
On the other hand, the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which oversees $787 billion in economic stimulus funding, has prevented fraudsters from siphoning tens of millions of dollars from recovery programs since acquiring pattern-detection tools in 2009, according to the board, an independent government body.