Feds audit Housing Authority’s use of stimulus bucks.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
The feds are taking a closer look at how Monterey County’s Housing Authority spent millions of dollars in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds.
In 2009, the Housing Authority received almost $3 million in stimulus package funding, using it to install solar panels on public housing buildings and repair roofs, decks and gutters, among other capital improvement projects.
Earlier this year, the agency received a letter from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, notifying it that HUD inspectors would soon begin a review. “The objective of the review will be to determine whether the Authority administered its allocated American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, also known as Capital Fund Recovery Grant, funds in accordance with HUD rules and requirements,” the Jan. 24 letter reads.
The letter asks to review everything from job descriptions of all staff responsible for overseeing the grants, Monterey County Housing Authority board minutes, annual financial statements, check registers, all contracts awarded and executed and bank accounts, among other documents.
After seven weeks spent reviewing financial records and interviewing staff, the Inspector General left the Salinas offices last week. Housing Authority officials expect a report back next month. And they say they’re not worried about what the feds will find.
“We don’t have anything to hide,” says Jean Goebel, acting executive director, adding “It is not an investigation. They do an audit first, and if it leads to an investigation, that’s different. They came to audit one function – capital fund stimulus money – which, apparently, because of Obama’s promise of transparency, they are doing a lot of. They did not single us out.”
While these inspector general audits of federal stimulus dollars may be common – along with a host of other audits from the state and the feds, according to Goebel – “I’ve been here for 22 years and we’ve never had an Inspector General audit during that time,” she says. “We’ll just wait and see what they say.”
Micheal Zerega, a spokesman for the HUD Inspector General’s office in Washington, D.C., says that of the 3,000 housing authorities in the U.S., the office picked 50 to review. When asked why Monterey County, he declined to comment further: “What we said in the letter is our statement on the matter.” The letter does not say why HUD selected the local authority to audit.
Goebel says she doesn’t know why the Inspector General selected Monterey County’s Housing Authority to audit. Fredrick W. Lee, senior auditor-in-charge who led the Monterey County Housing Authority review, did not return calls.
Starla Warren, who manages the capital fund for the agency, says the federal money included grants for solar energy that the Housing Authority used to install solar panels and repair roofs on about 100 public housing units from Monterey to Greenfield. In all, the Housing Authority received $2,976,861 ARRA funds. This included $1,617,261 in Formula Capital Funds and $1,359,600 from three competitive grants it received.
“We did quite a few roofs in public housing in all of our jurisdictions: Gonzales, Greenfield, Salinas, Monterey,” Warren says. Other work included surveying in anticipation of the solar work, gutters and ground spouts associated with the roofing contract.
Warren says she’s not losing any sleep over the fed visit: “I didn’t get the sense they had any strong concerns.”