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Feds will audit state’s higher debris removal costs in Florida Keys

Gov. Rick Scott defends his decision to hire more expensive replacement contractors.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security inspector general is telling Florida members of Congress that it will audit higher debris removal costs in the Keys following Hurricane Irma last year.

"We currently have two ongoing reviews related to your request," DHS acting inspector general John V. Kelly said in a letter to Florida lawmakers. "We also intend to initiate an audit regarding the specific issues you have raised with respect to the contracts in Monroe County."

Read the DHS letter here.

The agency's letter follows a request by the 11 Democrats in the Florida delegation that cited a "lack of transparency" by Gov. Rick Scott's administration. The letter was inspired by media reports on CBS-4 in Miami that the state set aside existing debris removal contracts in Monroe County and hired other firms at higher rates, over the county's opposition.

"Even more troubling, Governor Rick Scott has said publicly that he 'would do the same thing again,'" the Democrats' letter said.

Read the letter from Florida delegation members.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, offered language to a Homeland Security budget bill that was included in a broader manager's amendment to the bill.

Scott's office defended state decisions in a statement to the Times/Herald that accused contractors of trying to gouge the public.

"Governor Scott will continue to fight for consumers, not businesses who attempted to take advantage of their communities after this massive and deadly storm," Scott's office said. "He's glad that the Florida Keys met his goal of reopening on October 1."