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House Panel to Review Katrina Contracts for Waste, Abuse

A House committee said Monday it would review several post-Katrina hurricane contracts for waste and abuse, citing recent concerns about limited oversight and the haste in which they were awarded.

The Government Reform Committee will hold at least one hearing in April, said Robert White, a spokesman for chairman Tom Davis, R-Va. Witnesses and the specific contracts that will be scrutinized have yet to be determined, he said.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office reported in its first preliminary overview of Katrina contracts that the government wasted millions of dollars, including at least $3 million for 4,000 beds that were never used. The report blamed in part mismanagement and poor planning by agencies.

Rep. Henry Waxman, the senior Democrat on the panel, suggested earlier Monday that Davis to hold hearings on Katrina contracting. Waxman has proposed creating an independent, anti-fraud commission and has criticized congressional oversight of the hurricane recovery effort.

A House select committee also chaired by Davis issued a report last month saying waste in government contracts was due largely to poor planning. In one case, Mississippi officials requested from the Federal Emergency Management Agency 450 trucks of water and ice. After FEMA could not immediately deliver it, state officials were forced to buy from the commercial market at an untold cost, the report said.

"We spent five months investigating Katrina, including the contract issues," White said. "We understand there needs to be further review — GAO report or no."