Auditors in the Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office were instructed to produce “feel good reports” of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to disasters, according to an internal review. The review describes how Acting Inspector General John V. Kelly, who is in charge of IG auditors, allegedly directed auditors to portray emergency responders as nothing less than heroes. The resulting audits offered no recommendations to FEMA for improvements, and instead praised them for a lackluster response to flooding in Louisiana in 2016. In actuality, auditors found that FEMA’s response to the catastrophic floods was dangerously slow, leaving thousands of people homeless for months. The IG retracted numerous audits favorable to FEMA after mounting pressure from Congress to do so. The office later called the reports “not compliant” with federal auditing standards.
The reports “represent millions of wasted taxpayer dollars and understandably cast doubt on our credibility,” said Jennifer Costello, the deputy inspector general. In an interview with The Washington Post, Kelly denied directing his staff to sanitize the original audits. “There was no motivation to make FEMA look good,” he said. Kelly has not faced discipline for the flawed reports and plans to retire when the Senate confirms a permanent chief. “Because Mr. Kelly is the senior-most official in our organization, no one within (the office) has authority to impose corrective action upon him,” Morales said.