More than 21,000 Louisiana homeowners could be exposed to federal audits as a result of the Jindal administration's failure to implement a performance compliance standard for the the federal grant program that provides individual homeowners financial help to make their homes storm damage resistant.
"Through its failure to institute a meaningful compliance regime for the Individual Mitigation Measure program, the Jindal administration has exposed 21,000 Louisiana homeowners to the threat of a federal audit of how they spent the grant dollars that they were given," Louisiana Democratic Party Chair Karen Carter Peterson said.
"It is one thing for the administration to run its own affairs in an irresponsible manner," Peterson (the immediate past chair of the Legislature's Select Hurricane Recovery Committee) added. "It is quite another for them to expose tens of thousands of unwitting Louisiana homeowners to federal scrutiny because of this breakdown in competence."
New Orleans CityBusiness reported Friday
that the Jindal appointee who oversees the Individual Mitigation Measures program for the administration admitted the state has no way to know how much of the $195 million his office has given to more than 21,000 homeowners was used for its intended purpose.
The administration's admission of its lack of accountability in the first two years of the Individual Mitigation Measures program's operation comes a year after the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) warned the state of the dangers this presented to the state and to homeowners.
Pat Forbes, Executive Director of the Office of Community Development, admitted to CityBusiness, that his office had not advised homeowners of the need to prove compliance with the grant program over the first two years of its operation.
CityBusiness said HUD, which awarded the grants, had warned the state of the problem a year ago. Citing a HUD document, CityBusiness reported:
"Success or failure of this program is contingent upon the development and implementation of a compliance monitoring strategy," the report states.
After the review, the state started sending "self-certification" letters to grant recipients. The letter comes with an attached form that has check boxes for the grant recipient to indicate which mitigation measures have been completed.
CityBusiness obtained a self-certification letter dated Nov. 30 that does not inform the recipient of any requirement to complete and return the form. The form itself contains no identifying information and does not ask the homeowner to provide his name. A state employee receiving the letter would be forced to make out the homeowner's signature to determine who sent it.
Now into its fifth year in office, the Jindal administration has proven itself incapable of effectively administering relatively small programs like the Individual Mitigation Program. In contrast, the administration of Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco handled billions in federal post-Katrina and Rita disaster relief assistance without a hint of scandal or corruption.