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Homeland Security Projects in Chicago and other areas waste money

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Lack of accountability with taxpayer money is nothing new, but an Inspector General's report should raise big concerns. The Department of Homeland Security found a number of grants in the Chicago area potentially wasted as much as $45 million.

The Chicago area is not the only area warranting a hard look.

For instance, the county of Sonoma (Calif.) faced questioning about $391,898 in funding, with the DHS Inspector General recommending $906,815 could be “put to better use.”

The Chicago funds were spent under the banner of Project Shield, a program local officials claimed would make the city safer. The Chicago Sun-Times said:

Project Shield was supposed to make citizens safer. But in the end, the $45-million Homeland Security program more resembled a disaster, wasting taxpayers’ dollars and failing to make a single citizen more secure.

The California funds were part of the Federal Emergency Management Area’s (FEMA) public assistance grants. FEMA is part of DHS. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, a Democrat, represents Sonoma County.

In a broad report DHS provided to Congress, covering the period April 1-September 30, 2011, the IG noted [Boldface added]:

During this reporting period, our office published 51 management reports and 31 financial assistance grant reports. DHS management concurred with 93% of recommendations contained in our management reports. As a result of these efforts, $855.4 million of questioned costs were identified, of which $62.3 million were determined to be unsupported by documentation. We recovered $19.9 million as a result of disallowed costs identified from previous audit reports and from investigative efforts. We issued 12 reports identifying $10.3 million in funds that could be put to better use. In addition, management agreed to deobligate $4.4 million in disaster grant assistance, which will result in funds put to better use.

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) addressed such matters when he was still serving in the House of Representatives. Kirk, said The Sun-Times, told DHS chief Janet Napolitano, “A Google search of $43-million wasted should come to your attention.”

Apparently DHS grants fare no better than entitlement programs like Medicaid when it comes to fraud or other wrongdoing or other misuse in taxpayer money. The IG’s DHS report said, “Our investigations resulted in 154 arrests, 110 indictments, 136 convictions, and 65 personnel actions.”

The Sun-Times referenced the IG's report due out on January 10.