Our Opinion: Much left to be done

Monday, February 27, 2006

There are good reasons for alarm at the Government Accountability Office, the Homeland Security Department and the Justice Department -- all of which have recognized the fraudulent use of millions of dollars of hurricane relief funding following last year's devastating storms along the Gulf Coast.

Every disaster produces its share of misdirected funds and scam artists who scavenge on victims in desperate need of immediate assistance. But the scope of the abused and misused hurricane aid is mind-boggling.

Congress has weighed in with hearings into both the funding mess and the bungling of relief efforts in general. A good deal of finger-pointing already has occurred, and there is likely to be much more.

While the recent focus has been on squandered dollars and mismanagement, there remains a monumental amount of work to be done to restore the cities and communities that are the homes and offices and factories of thousands of displaced human beings.

With the approach of Mardi Gras, the Gulf Coast -- especially New Orleans -- is trying to put on its best face for residents who are ready to replace storm recovery efforts with a bit of fun, and for visitors who expect to have a good time, just like always.

For now, the main effort should be to put the money designated for hurricane relief and reconstruction to good use. The sooner the Gulf Coast is able to function again, the sooner the survivors will begin to heal. Then go after the crooks and the bureaucratic bumblers.