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The federal government provided $122 million to California for help in fighting Southern California wildfires in October 2007. Cost overruns amounted to a whopping $80 million of the total, a critical new audit notes.

The cost overruns may have included millions of dollars in unjustified reimbursements, according to the report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General. But because the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection did not have its cost overruns evaluated at the time the money was requested, auditors say they don't know the full scope of the problem.

Policy and procedure differences account for some of the complaints lodged by auditors. For instance, the California firefighters were said to have charged the feds $6.6 million in "ineligible" labor costs. That's because the state believes the labor reimbursements should cover the entire 24-hour day, even while the firefighter is sleeping, whereas the Federal Emergency Management Agency only wants to pay for 16 hours a day.



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