State responds to Inspector General's investigation

[if gte mso 9]>

[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

We were "hoping for the best but preparing for the worst." That's what Governor Bobby Jindal's office said about a scathing report by the State Inspector General.


It reveals the state let $13 million worth of ice melt in a warehouse during Hurricane Isaac. That ice was paid for with tax payers' money.

State Representative Erich Ponti was shocked when he learned the findings of the State Inspector General's report on the Governor's Office of Homeland Security, or GOHSEP.


"There were obviously some communication breakdown and some issues," Ponti said.


Inspectors at the State Inspector General's office released photos that show nearly $13 million worth of ice melting inside a Pelican Ice warehouse.


The report shoes GOHSEP purchased $17.4 million in ice from Pelican Ice to help victims of Hurricane Isaac. But only a small portion of that, $ 2.4 million went to storm victims. The rest was given away or allowed to melt.


"In a severe storm situation that might have been adequate. The hindsight in which it happened it seems like an exorbitant waste of money," Ponti said.


GOHSEP Director, Kevin Davis, said because warehouses in the state are limited he had no choice but to let the ice go.


"The bottom line is it's going to melt. At some point, then I do have to make a decision," Davis said.


Davis said the Louisiana Army National Guard plays a role in determining how much ice is requested in emergency situations.


"The Army National Guard handles all that. They tell us what we need to order and we make the order," Davis said.


According to the inspector's report, "GOHSEP's Unified Logistics Element team was responsible for assessing the impact of Hurricane Isaac and the need for resources."


GOHSEP said some members of the guard are part of that team. Louisiana National Guard Lt. Col. Michael Kazmierzak said the Army is working on making some improvements.


"This is not like Walmart. This is a system that we've used internally in the past and we're trying to improve that to better track these things in the future," Kazmierzak said.


When the state sent most of the extra ice back, Pelican Ice charged a $315,000 restocking fee. Then, they let the ice melt.


Davis said the state has made some changes in its contracts with ice distributors to avoid future waste.


"The truck will arrive. They'll inventory it, seal the truck and if the truck is no longer shipped to a point of distribution and we don't need it, then we'll ship it back to the supplier at no cost," Davis said.

Ponti hopes the new plan produces better results.


"We need to be prepared. We need to protect our citizens but we also need to protect our tax payer dollars," Ponti said.


Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved.