School building program gets fraud oversight

By Jessica Williams, The Lens staff writer |

Contractors tasked with nearly $2 billion worth of school renovation and construction will face a comprehensive fraud monitoring program announced Monday afternoon by the Recovery School District, which oversees the facilities master plan.

The monitoring will involve investigators from the city’s Office of Inspector General, the State Legislative Auditor, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and the Recovery School District. The plan neared completion today when the New Orleans City Council’s Governmental Affairs Committee approved a necessary agreement to allow Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux to be involved. Though the full council must approve the deal, such a vote is likely with the committee’s recommendation.

The approval comes less than five months after Quatrevaux made an impassioned plea to the council explaining the benefits of construction oversight for schools.

The program introduces new measures to make sure schools don’t get duped by pricey contractors – including closer monitoring of construction activities and vetting of vendors as well as sub-contractors. The fraud program won’t tap into the nearly $2 billion in FEMA construction dollars set aside for rebuilding the city’s schools, but rather, from FEMA funds designated for program management, RSD spokeswoman Siona LaFrance said Monday. Cost concerns for the fraud program were among City Councilman Jon Johnson’s reasons for voting it down when Quatrevaux presented it to the council in June.

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