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Coburn Returns from CODEL to Katrina-affected Regions

Location: Washington, DC

Coburn Returns from CODEL to Katrina-affected Regions

Says lack of coordination, clean-up progress is appalling

U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) released the following statement today after returning from a congressional delegation trip to hurricane-ravaged areas of Louisiana and Mississippi.

"More than four months after the Katrina recovery effort began the worst fears of many policymakers are being realized. Although some progress has been made, bureaucratic delays have caused the recovery effort to be appallingly slow and inefficient," Dr. Coburn said.

"The problem, however, does not reside with Donald Powell, President Bush's recovery coordinator in the region. Powell is capable leader with a proven track record of sound management at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The problem is that Powell has been given all of the responsibility but none of the authority. Excessive regulations, overlapping missions, and confusing lines of authority have turned a talented leader into a frustrated figurehead. Katrina, therefore, continues to represent not merely a failure of government, but a failure of big government," Dr. Coburn said.

During his tour, Dr. Coburn discovered even more examples of bureaucratic lethargy turning simple tasks into complex and costly fiascos. For instance, according to the testimony of first-hand, on-the-ground witnesses, layers of subcontractors involved in basic debris removal have caused costs to quadruple from $8 per cubic yard to $32 per cubic yard. Similarly, layers of subcontractors involved trailer procurement have caused trailers that would have cost $19,000 to cost $75,000

Another example of on-the-ground bureaucratic paralysis was the inability of officials to dispose of abandoned flood-damaged cars because of federal environmental regulations.

"The inability of government officials to dispose of rotting and rusting vehicles is a microcosm of the larger problem," Dr. Coburn added. "If FEMA and other agencies can't decide who is in charge of draining fluids from abandoned cars, how can they be expected to rebuild an entire city?"

"It is unfortunate that that the noble, and sometimes heroic, work of relief workers, both inside and outside of the government, is being slowed by red tape and overshadowed by grand systemic failures. Congress needs to take responsibility for its role in creating this broken system and take steps to give Powell the authority he needs to accomplish his mission," Dr. Coburn said.

Dr. Coburn and U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) are sponsors of the "Oversight of Vital Emergency Recovery Spending Enhancement and Enforcement (OVERSEE) Act," S. 1700 which would put a single Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in charge of the expenditure of all federal funds related to the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.

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