Tuesday, November 20, 2007

That "Fishy" Smell At FEMA

It's official: Larry, Curly, and Moe are running FEMA. Fresh off the spectacle of a fake press conference the tools at FEMA are raising incompetence to a new level. Enter the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans.

When Katrina hit New Orleans it knocked out power to the Aquarium, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city. Four days later when the staff made their way back they found almost all of their sharks, tropical fish, jellyfish, and thousands of other creatures dead in their tanks. FEMA quickly promised more than $600,000 to repopulate the Aquarium.

The staff members had another idea. Do it themselves and not wait for help from the feds. You'd think what follows below the fold would be a feel good story wouldn't you. But sadly, it isn't.

They wanted to do the work, you know, what we hear all the right wing gas bags (Rush, Beck, Hannity, and Savage) say people in New Orleans should do.

Don't look for government handouts. Pull yourselves up by the boat strips and fend for yourself.

To save precious time (time was actually money for them in a real sense), aquarium staffers improvised and went fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving for the species needed in multiple expeditions to the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys, and Bahamas. After weeks of effort they returned with 1,681 species. The total cost $99,766 (keep in mind FEMA was willing to pay $616,000).

Great news right? Well in the reality based world of course, but not in the bizzaro Bush world we currently live in.

When the Audubon Aquarium filed the invoices with FEMA they were told (via email mind you):

FEMA does not consider it reasonable when an applicant takes excursions to collect specimens. They must be obtained through a reputable sources where, again, the item is commercially available.

You don't need an advanced math degree to figure out that FEMA is refusing to authorize invoices that would save American taxpayers more than $500,000, simply because the aquarium didn't comply with shit-all-stupid FEMA regulations. Not to mention that the Aquarium was able to open much faster then if they would have waited to purchase what they needed through "reputable sources."Sixteen months after the above email was sent the Aquarium still has not been paid!

This is all happening because of the Stafford Act. The Act does a lot of bizzzare stuff, but one of them states "facilities can not be improved beyond their pre-storm conditions." So according to FEMA that meant the aquarium would have to find fish, through a commercial vendor, the approximate age and size of those that were lost. Of course multiple experts told the Association Press (AP) this isn't close to impossible, it is impossible.

Now I will admit, there is something to be said for rules and regulations, yet why does FEMA only seem to follow them when they hurt citizens. I mean a GAO report issued last week indicated (as I wrote elsewhere):

The report highlights that FEMA approved $16 million in improper or fraudulent invoices for trailer maintenance between June 2006 and January 2007. FEMA also failed to award those contracts to contractors with the lowest prices. Another $15 million was wasted on maintenance inspections FEMA cannot prove ever took place.

Adding to the waste (some like myself may say fraud) is FEMA’s decision to place many trailers at group sites, which at one location runs the agency an average of $30,000 per 280 square feet—because FEMA only placed eight trailers there. The contract for this site was fixed in advance, meaning the cost was the same no matter how many trailers were placed there. To pour more salt on the wounds of Katrina victims, at one site FEMA paid $229,000 for "repairs" on one trailer—the equivalent of a five bedroom house in that area. How do these people still have jobs?

I mean WTF is going on! The citizens of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are dammed if they do dammed if they don't. They try to do something on their own so it gets done faster and for less money they run into mountains of red tape. They don't do anything and wait for the government to do as they promised, and they wait and wait and get called "lazy."

The situation is a perfect example of FUBAR (Fu*^ed Up Beyond All Reason)!