Published November 30, 2010
An ACORN affiliate in New Orleans was improperly awarded a fire safety and prevention grant worth nearly a half-million dollars, according to a new report from the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general.
The federal grant detailed in the report dates back to 2007 and was awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The review of the now-defunct advocacy organization's funding was requested by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and was distributed Tuesday on Capitol Hill. It is expected to be released next month.
In the findings, obtained by FoxNews.com, the inspector general's office said that FEMA went against the advice of an evaluation panel to hand out the $450,484 grant to the ACORN Institute in New Orleans. From there, not all of the money could be tracked.
"We concluded that the ACORN Institute should not have received these funds, did not fully implement and evaluate the program as approved and could not substantiate all its grant expenditures," the report said.
The report said that ACORN applied for the fire safety and prevention grant -- meant to fund efforts to distribute and promote the use of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers - by claiming to operate programs that did not yet exist. The institute claimed to have partnerships with local fire departments through the "Urban Fire Initiative," when in fact, that initiative "did not exist prior to the grant application."
FEMA reduced the grant request from its original $1 million. But the report said the institute could not provide documentation to support how it spent nearly $161,000 of the money it did receive.
Issa, who is looking to take over the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as chairman and has been a vocal ACORN critic, said in a written statement, "It is really unthinkable that anyone would use the guise of public safety and helping victims of a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina as a calculating way to inappropriately obtain taxpayer dollars."
A prior report requested by Issa's office and released in September found that a separate ACORN offshoot could not properly account for how it had spent federal housing dollars.
ACORN filed for bankruptcy in early November, capping off a tumultuous period during which Congress voted to cut off funding to the group. The organization's undoing was triggered by the release of undercover videos that showed its workers appearing to help a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute.
A representative from ACORN could not be reached for comment on the IG report.