Published: Jan 03, 2011 11:11 PM EST
Updated: Jan 03, 2011 8:16 PM EST

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A government audit says the Federal Emergency Management Agency hasn't tried to collect roughly $643 million in improper payments made to victims of Hurricane Katrina and other disasters.

A report issued Monday by the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general's office says the improper payments have gone uncollected since June 2007 because FEMA hasn't given its final approval to a new recoupment process.

FEMA has distributed more than $7 billion in disaster assistance payments since the 2005 hurricanes. An estimated 160,000 applicants received about $643 million in improper payments resulting from fraud, FEMA errors or other mistakes.

The audit says a new process for recovering improper payments has been awaiting approval from FEMA's administrator since late 2008.

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