Bill It To Uncle Sam

Congress is sinking its teeth into FEMA and other government agencies, following up on a General Accounting Office study saying about half of the things billed on government credit cards issued for Katrina expenses represent abuse or misuse of government funds.

Sen. Susan Collins (GOP, Maine), chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, says the Homeland Security Department, at a hearing Wednesday, will be asked to explain what it intends to do to fix the problem.

CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports the GAO study found numerous examples of abuse of funds intended for rescue and relief operations following Hurricane Katrina:

  • An $8,000 purchase of a 63-inch plasma TV by the Federal Emergency Management Agency;

  • Tens of thousands spent to "train" government workers at luxurious golf and tennis resorts;

  • Nearly half a million spent on pre-packaged meals which are now sitting in storage;

  • Close to $400,000 allegedly spent on hundreds of laptop computers and printers now nowhere to be found at the conference center they were supposed to equip;

  • Some $7,000 spent by the Secret Service on Apple iPod music players; and

  • Beer brewing kits bought by the Coast Guard, which – when questioned – justified the purchase by arguing that the private label beer they made served as a good ice breaker at official parties.


    "There's just no excuse for wasting tax dollars when the needs are so great," says Collins, whose panel had asked the GAO to investigate.

    "We're in the midst of hurricane season right now," says a determined Collins. "I don't want to be holding a hearing next year once again chastising the department for wasting your money."
    • Melissa McNamara

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