Debris Removal >> Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage

This office reported that its applicants had "passed every decision through layers of FEMA approvals" at the time the original disaster cleanup was under way, and it was only informed years later that certain vegetative debris removal was ineligible for reimbursement. Several applicants have encountered Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage problems with tipping fees.

FEMA reimburses tipping fees to compensate applicants for the Tipping fees are fees that landfills charge to cover their operating and maintenance costs. FEMA's Oversight and Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage Management of Debris Removal Operations Page 31 diminished capacity of a landfill resulting from the disposal of disaster-generated debris. 

FEMA disallowed $7.7 million in tipping fee charges in an Alabama county based on the argument that the applicant based tipping fees on the volume of raw vegetative debris instead of the diminished volume of burned debris. FEMA challenged tipping fees in a Tennessee county because different rates had been applied for in-county and Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage out-of county debris removal contractors per the county's customary practice. 

We reviewed the latest FEMA guidance and found only two limited references to tipping fees; neither addressed the above issues. Recent controversies in Kentucky and New York have centered on the Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage appropriateness of debris removal costs; in both cases FEMA disputed the costs paid to contractors for debris removal even though the costs were arrived at through competitive bidding. 

While competitive procurement usually establishes that the debris removal rates are reasonable, Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage it does not establish that a contractor removed only eligible debris. Nor does it ensure that proper documentation exists to substantiate an applicant's claim. No Substitute for FEMA "Boots on the Ground" 

There is widespread agreement among state and local officials that a visible FEMA presence at a disaster site has a direct Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage impact on reducing fraud and abuse. A commonly cited example involves load calls from debris monitors in towers. 

Debris specialists and public assistance officials said when no FEMA employee is present, incoming trucks are virtually all recorded at or near 100% capacity, but as soon as a FEMA employee or official representative is in the tower, Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage the load calls drop to 60% to 70%. These anecdotal observations were supported by findings from a FEMA after-action report: 

During the early stages of this disaster, the limited availability of DAEs and TACs [Technical Assistance Contractors] prevented FEMA from manning the debris towers. Due to this Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage applicant monitors made higher calls. This resulted in a 15 to 20% increase in debris costs statewide. Most of the calls were between 90 to 100%. 

If available personnel could be quickly deployed FEMA would have saved $20 million on this disaster alone.6 6 FEMA Remedial Action Issue 1791-I-47, Event # 1781-DR-TX, Texas Hurricane Ike, March 31, 2010. FEM's Oversight and Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage Management of Debris Removal Operations Page 32 Delayed Project Closeouts Exacerbate Problems 

A key debris management and oversight issue is the need to estimate, scope, and close out projects appropriately and timely. Numerous officials reported that waste, fraud, and abuse tend to multiply toward the end of debris projects, Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage when the debris mission starts winding down and contractors become "more creative in filling their trucks." 

This is a theme that cuts across all PA program areas and has been addressed by us, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and others. Our recent report 7 identified a number of recommendations for closing out disasters more promptly and Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage efficiently. Developing a Performance Measurement Framework 

Although FEMA spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year to support, plan, and implement debris removal programs across the country, there is no integrated performance measurement framework to manage and Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage provide oversight over this complex activity. A contractor has been hired to develop an improved tracking system. 

Ideally, program managers would have access to information to measure, analyze, and improve program performance. An integrated performance measurement system would enable managers to compare performance in different regions, under different scenarios, to provide fact-based information to partners and stakeholders regarding costs, contractor and partner performance, effectiveness, efficiency, and Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage other factors determined to be important to future decision making. 

The need for a performance measurement framework surfaced at a number of states and localities. Officials said it would be helpful to have historical and comparative cost data to assist in the evaluation and selection of debris removal and monitoring contractors. FEMA is working with a contractor to develop a cost model database that states and communities can use to compare prices of specific items, Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage which will make the market for debris removal and monitoring services more open and transparent. 

Another area where better data is needed involves comparing the use of local government employees with the use of contractors to perform various activities. Many officials believe that the overall cost of debris removal and Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage monitoring would be reduced by using 7 Opportunities to Improve FEMA's Disaster Closeout Process, OIG-10-49, January 2010. 

FEM's Oversight and Management of Debris Removal Operations Page 33 local government employees and reimbursing municipalities for this direct labor cost for a limited period. Conclusion The quality of FEMA's management Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage and oversight, especially following major disasters that overwhelm local capacity, is perhaps the key element in the success or failure of debris operations. 

Debris events are complex and involve multiple private and public sector entities working together in an often chaotic post disaster environment. FEMA has made significant strides toward improving its management and oversight capacity, but opportunities remain for further improvement. These opportunities involve the staffing, structure, and Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage design of key management and oversight activities. 

Debris expertise is not always clearly evident in FEMA's early response teams assigned to a disaster. FEMA personnel may not always be positioned in locations to optimize their oversight and control functions. Debris guidance is at times incomplete, unclear, or Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage ambiguous despite FEMA's attempts to address all aspects of debris removal. 

A more principles-based rather than rules-based regulatory framework that allowed for increased local decision making could be an improvement over the present system. Finally, Tree Removal From Hurricane Damage an integrated performance measurement framework would give FEMA and its stakeholders data and tools to measure, analyze, and improve debris operations.

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