While many reporters in Texas might be racing down dusty roads to find that rock, Brenda Bell of the Austin American-Statesman broke from the pack, looked under a rock, and dug up this meaty piece of enterprise reporting about a lucrative and seemingly mismanaged disaster-relief contract awarded to a well-connected firm. (Where have we heard that before?)

The piece begins:

The state of Texas has quietly outsourced the management of more than $1 billion in federal disaster recovery funds to an engineering firm with close ties to Gov. Rick Perry’s administration, paying the Kansas City, Mo. -based firm HNTB $45 million so far to process infrastructure grants for communities damaged by Hurricanes Dolly and Ike.

The company’s billings threaten to exhaust the amount budgeted for administrative and planning costs, while only 20 percent of the first round of money released to Texas to aid disaster recovery grants has been spent three years after the storms. Based on the state’s original timeline, at least half those projects should have been completed by now, federal officials say.

The problems have caused officials with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to voice alarm and begin quarterly reviews in an attempt to get the program back on track.

Read the rest of Ball’s well-reported piece here.

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Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.