Back in February, I wrote a post about homeland security grants management in California, focused on a story that ran that month in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. That story noted that California had not spent approx. 1/3rd of federal homeland security grant funds as of 2005, and that Gov. Schwarzenegger was set to issue a strategic plan about how to improve the grants distribution process. That report was due to the California state legislature on February 1, 2006. I made numerous inquiries to try to find it, but was unsuccessful, leaving me to believe that it apparently has yet to be published.
That history helps me to understand the findings of a California state audit report released this week, one which blasts the state’s Office of Emergency Services for its emergency preparedness efforts, most notably its failure to effectively spend federal homeland security grant money that has been directed to the state. According to the report, the state has spent only 42% of the $954 million in federal homeland security grant funds awarded to it from 2001 to 2005, as of June 30, 2006. $239 million of this unspent grant money (most of which has been encumbered) is set to expire at the end of 2006, leaving the state at the risk of forfeiting this money. The report also criticizes the state’s efforts to review local plans, monitor grant spending, and coordinate preparedness efforts.
The report has attracted a firestorm of attention in California – see these stories in the Los Angeles Times and the Contra Costa Times as examples – and rightfully so. I’ve maintained for a long time that the inability of states to channel funds effectively is a worse problem than the oft-cited examples of wasteful overspending, and this report reinforces my belief. California isn’t alone on this – numerous other states have failed to spend their money in a timely fashion – but it is certainly appears to be one of the worst offenders. If I were a California resident, I’d be really wondering why the state government has thus far failed to use all available federal funds to protect the state and prepare for terror-related and natural disaster threats.