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Homeland Security Spending Marked by Waste, Shoddy Oversight
Posted on Sep 13, 2009
By G.W. Schulz, California Watch
Cynthia Chimonyo, emergency planning coordinator for the Oakland Fire Department, said the city wasn’t aware public transit officials had not issued formal bids for purchases, but AC Transit has since been instructed to follow procurement guidelines.
The city’s grant office was severely understaffed during the early years, added Renee Domingo, an emergency services manager for the fire department. There was only a single person in charge of Oakland’s entire program and no one available to carry out an inventory of millions of dollars in equipment.
So did all of these new homeland security purchases make the state safer? That’s difficult to tell, according to Inspector General Skinner. His federal auditors found that California couldn’t evaluate improvements in its ability to respond to disasters and thus demonstrate how the grants have made a difference, a conclusion also contained in several other watchdog reports published this year that were critical of the Department of Homeland Security’s major grant programs in general.
California’s preparedness goals weren’t specific or measureable, the audit declared, which meant the state “was not able to assess first responder capabilities or justify continued grants.”
In his response letter, California Emergency Management Agency secretary Bettenhausen called the finding “subjective” and cited as an example of success the state’s swift-water rescue efforts, which improved after shortcomings in such missions were identified. According to Bettenhausen: “California has gone above and beyond what is required at the federal level in the measurement of preparedness and capabilities.”
California Watch is a new reporting unit started by the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting. Last year, CIR began examining the effectiveness of America’s homeland security efforts in partnership with the Center for Public Integrity. To read more go to www.californiawatch.org.
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