Thursday, December 14, 2006

Lack of Bureaucratic Imagination?

The Post today reported that a judge wants FEMA to give explanations of rejections:

"Leon [the judge] ruled that FEMA mishandled the transition from a short-term housing program to a longer-term program this spring and summer. Instead of explaining why funding was being cut, FEMA provided only computer-generated and sometimes conflicting program codes, Leon said.

The judge ordered FEMA to explain those decisions so thousands of evacuees can understand the reasoning and decide whether to appeal.

"I'm not looking for a doctoral dissertation," Leon said. "I'm looking for a couple of paragraphs in plain English."

Sitcov [FEMA's attorney] said FEMA's eight-year-old computer system is set up only to produce program codes. "
I'm jumping to conclusions, but it sounds fishy to me. At worst, any word processing package can generate canned letters--you simply write a paragraph(s) for each code, then enter name and address and codes and you get the letter. Even better, possibly the program can create a file of this information. At any rate, it sounds like FEMA is more interested in defending their turf against judicial intrusion than in working out a solution to the problem.

(In the interests of fair play, I should note that the software program was designed in the Clinton administration. Even 8 years ago a good system designer should have provided for letters of explanation from the system.)

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