Energy

FEMA Funds Rebuilt An Old Casino And Gave One Contractor A Fat Bonus

Disaster relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) paid for unauthorized repairs to a casino and a contractor’s bonus worth more than $300,000, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

The Inspector General (IG) report is the result of an investigation into $16.9 million in grants awarded to the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska and Iowa to cover costs of flooding in 2011.

Omaha Tribal Council Chairman Vernon Miller estimated in 2016 the tribes total rebuilding costs amounted to $12 million. The Obama administration granted the tribe a 15 percent increase in emergency funding the same year, the Sioux City Journal reports.

“The Omaha Tribe’s serious financial management weaknesses combined with inadequate and missing documentation resulted in unreliable financial records,” the report states. “As a result, we have little confidence that the transactions recorded in the accounting system actually occurred or that the tribe completed its FEMA authorized projects.”

The IG classified all $16.9 million in emergency funds as “unsupported.” The agency granted that $13.9 million of the total may have been properly used, but the transactions lacked sufficient documentation to prove definitively either way.

Some transactions were tracked, however. The IG found $74,749 that could be verified as “supported and eligible.”

The IG also found that the tribe had paid $168,764 in illicit casino renovations and $312,282 to its own contracting company as a bonus.

FEMA approved funds to build a new casino, but the Omaha tribe diverted the funds to refurbishing an old one. After the contracting company, which works for the tribe, finished the project under budget, the tribe gave the rest of the FEMA funds meant for a new casino to the contracting company, essentially paying the tribe, according to the report.

The IG blamed the misuse on the council doling out the money under tribal law rather than federal law.

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