As finger-pointing increases within the administration of US President George W. Bush over failures to take decisive action after Hurricane Katrina - and as federal recovery efforts come under attack - a new report has revealed the sordid history of the man who ran the federal response to the storm. A furore is growing in the US over the gap between the promises made by Mr Bush in a dramatic speech from New Orleans in September - after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and left more than 1,300 dead - and the reality. Facing sharp criticism at the time, Mr Bush promised huge and speedy federal aid to the area. Five months later, most Katrina victims are still waiting to see results. New Orleans - 80 per cent of which was flooded - remains a complete wreck. Hundreds of thousands still lack housing, and many evacuees are facing eviction from their temporary government-subsidised shelter in hotels. In the vacuum left by Washington inaction, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is appealing to other nations to help rebuild the city. Last Thursday, new evidence pointed to the White House having known earlier than it has admitted that floodwaters were engulfing the city. On Friday, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema), in testimony before the US Senate, suggested that both his boss, the secretary of homeland security, and Mr Bush, were aware of the gravity of the situation, and said that he felt 'abandoned' as the crisis grew. The White House, which came under heavy condemnation for mishandling the initial response to the storm, has refused to release to Congress internal memos that could shed light on what the president and top aides did and did not do in the days immediately before and after the storm. A congressional investigation concludes in a report leaked to the press ahead of its release this week, that unheeded warnings, poor planning and apathy in recognising the scope of Katrina's destruction led to the slow emergency response from the White House down. Suspicions that the Bush administration has something to hide were bolstered by an investigative report published last week by the non-profit Real News Project organisation ( www.realnews.org ), which reported a dubious business partnership that explained how Michael Brown, a man without appropriate credentials, was placed in charge of the agency responsible for helping Americans in the aftermath of any natural or man-made disaster, including terrorist attacks. When Mr Bush came to Washington after the 2000 elections, he appointed his close aide and campaign manager Joe Allbaugh to run Fema. As his first hire, Mr Allbaugh brought in little-known fellow-Oklahoman Mr Brown. Mr Allbaugh fast-tracked Mr Brown to be his top assistant, then left the agency, making Mr Brown the director of the organisation. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Mr Brown's inexperience and lack of qualifications quickly became apparent in Fema's slow and chaotic response. Mr Bush initially expressed his support for the embattled Mr Brown, famously declaring: 'Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.' But with criticism reaching fever pitch, Mr Bush - who almost never jettisons subordinates - forced Mr Brown out. Until Mr Brown resurfaced on Friday, little attention was focused on how such an inappropriate choice could have ended up running such a crucial agency. What has also become apparent is a lifelong, secret business relationship between Mr Brown and the man who brought him to Washington. After naming Mr Brown to head Fema, Mr Allbaugh left government to launch a career as a consultant and lobbyist; not surprisingly, many of the clients he signed up quickly received lucrative government contracts - from Mr Brown's Fema. The relationship between Mr Allbaugh and Mr Brown goes back to the 1980s. The two left a trail of unpaid debts, a personal bankruptcy and dubious business ethics. Mr Brown, who initially oversaw Fema's legal division, has a history as a failed low-level lawyer, replete with discontented clients, unhappy employers and damaging lawsuits. His most important job before coming to Washington was a 10-year stint as an investigator for a private association of Arabian Horse owners, a job he was forced out of after accusations of shady dealings. This was not his first brush with impropriety. As an attorney, he was successfully sued by a former officemate for non-payment of rent. Mr Allbaugh was also no paragon of business acumen or probity. In 1990, he and his second wife declared personal bankruptcy, writing off about US$300,000 in debts. He would also be accused by an elderly widow of taking a loan from her and not paying it back. Yet when the two men faced confirmation hearings in the US Senate, both falsely swore under oath that they had never been involved in civil litigation. The two men also failed to reveal their prior business ties, including one venture in which Mr Allbaugh worked for Mr Brown as a lobbyist. Once at Fema, Mr Allbaugh began dismantling a professional team of managers that had been installed by then president Bill Clinton, and replacing them with political operatives loyal to Mr Bush, but lacking in disaster experience. Mr Allbaugh's activities reminded some of a Nixonian purge. Acting upon his orders, a reluctant inspector-general launched investigations, looking at everything undertaken by his Clinton-appointed predecessor, James Lee Witt, including Witt's own travel expenses. Nothing incriminating was found. Under Mr Allbaugh and Mr Brown, Fema began awarding contracts to politically connected firms with no track record in disaster relief. In 2003 the agency, which had been dealing on a non-exclusive basis with a number of large bottled-water suppliers, suddenly issued a sole-source contract to a tiny, politically connected firm that had to turn to other companies in to meet the supply. This cumbersome arrangement is blamed for substantial problems with deliveries of water after Katrina. Mr Brown also excelled in politically savvy marketing. In August 2004, Hurricane Frances ravaged Florida. Fema under Mr Brown handed out millions of dollars in disaster aid to counties that had experienced little damage, but which were crucial to Mr Bush in the November presidential poll. Today, Mr Allbaugh continues to sign up clients worldwide who wish to do business with the US government. A short time after his ousting, Mr Brown, too, announced that he was becoming an industry consultant. On Friday, he testified before a Senate inquiry, yet the question of why he was put in charge - by his long-time crony Mr Allbaugh - never came up.