A recipient of Hurricane Sandy relief funds misused the money, a new report has found.
Acting on a 2013 tip from a whistleblower, the Department of Commerce's inspector general began investigating if a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration program that received Hurricane Sandy recovery funds even withstood damage from the October 2012 storm.
The funds in question — $1.1 million — came from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act and Sandy Recovery Improvement Act. The money was dispersed amongst nine National Estuarine Research Reserve System facilities.
NERRS used $550,2000 — more than half of the money it was awarded — to "replace aging assets that were not actually 'damaged' by the storm," the IG's investigation found.
The facilities simply had to state that parts of it were "damaged" or "compromised" — without documentation or proof — by Hurricane Sandy to get the money.
By applying and thus receiving the money, NERRS was in clear violation of the federal rules put forth by the law, the IG said.
NOAA "defeated the purpose of the Act and deprived itself and potentially others from using the funds for purposes that would more directly benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy or remediate the storm’s damage," by allowing this to happen, the report said.
The Recovery Act provided $50 billion in appropriations to 19 federal agencies in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. NOAA got $290 million.