Some USDA Hurricane Aid Misused

Audits find that much of the $2.6 million in Katrina and Rita aid was unnecessary. Associated Press

Published on: Oct 26, 2006

Much of the $2.6 million the Agriculture Department gave to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita was unnecessary, a federal audit said.

The department won praise for quickly placing victims through its Rural Housing Service, the department's inspector general said in an audit released Wednesday.

But officials overlooked some basic controls to make sure the right amount of rental assistance went to disaster victims, and that only victims got the assistance, the report said.

Most housing costs were already covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, auditors said, and several people obtained the aid fraudulently, the report said.

Auditors acknowledged that the 2005 hurricanes were an unprecedented natural disaster, which the department pointed out in its response to the report.

"The rural housing program helped meet a critical need at a critical time," spokeswoman Nicol Andrews said Wednesday. "That said, we appreciate the recommendations for improving the program for the future."

-AP