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Dr. Coburn, Senator Obama Offer Amendment to Root Out Misspending of Katrina Funds

Location: Washington, DC

Dr. Coburn, Senator Obama Offer Amendment to Root Out Misspending of Katrina Funds

Senators Say No-bid Contracts Shake Taxpayer's Faith in Reconstruction Effort

June 15, 2006

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL) announced today they will offer an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill which would require all federal contracts in excess of $500,000 for Hurricane Katrina reconstruction be competitively bid. In May, Coburn and Obama passed similar legislation 98-0, but the language was stripped in conference.

"It seems as if everyone in America, except for Congress, recognizes the need for more aggressive oversight in the Gulf Coast. Passing this common sense legislation will not only help those in need but help restore the American people's confidence in their government," Dr. Coburn said.

Senator Obama noted, "American taxpayers have provided $100 billion for the reconstruction effort precisely so that the people of the Gulf Coast region - including some of the most vulnerable citizens in our society - would immediately receive help. But they don't want their money to go to politically-connected companies so that they can turn inflated profits. This common-sense legislation allows us to fulfill our duty to the residents of the Gulf Coast and to all American taxpayers. Before we spend another dollar in the Gulf Coast, let's make sure we have a system of transparency and accountability in place to ensure that every dollar is being used effectively to help those in need."

The effort comes in the wake of yesterday's release of a Government Accountability Office report which estimates up to $1.4 billion in hurricane relief funds has been wasted through improper and potentially fraudulent payments

Previously, Senators Coburn and Obama introduced legislation to create a Chief Financial Officer to be in charge of reconstruction dollars before they are spent. The senators also have proposed requiring the Office of Management and Budget to establish and maintain a single public Web site that lists all entities receiving federal funds, including the name of each entity, the amount of federal funds the entity has received annually by program, and the location of the entity.

"Yesterday we learned that FEMA wasted up to $1.4 billion of taxpayer money that should have gone to help those in need," Obama said. "News reports like this have shaken the American people's faith in our government's reconstruction efforts, so we will continue to offer this amendment until it becomes law to earn back their trust."

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