oversight

Monitoring and Oversight of Federal Funds Awarded to Bridgeport, Connecticut

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-11-26.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

United States General Accounting Office
Washington, DC 20548


      November 26, 2003 


      The Honorable Tom Davis 

      Chairman 

      The Honorable Christopher Shays

      Vice-Chairman 

      Committee on Government Reform

      House of Representatives 


      Subject: Monitoring and Oversight of Federal Funds Awarded to Bridgeport,
      Connecticut

      In 2001 and 2002, federal prosecutors indicted the Mayor of Bridgeport,
      Connecticut, and a dozen conspirators on charges of racketeering, extortion, mail
      fraud, and tax evasion. In March 2003, the mayor was found guilty on 16 counts,
      and most of the others indicted have pleaded guilty. While the indictment did not
      refer to any misuse of federal funds, some of the corrupt activities were
      associated with projects that had received some federal funding in the past. This
      corruption has raised concerns about the adequacy of monitoring and oversight of
      the more than $82 million in federal funds Bridgeport has received in recent years.

      You asked us to examine federally funded programs operated by the city of
      Bridgeport and determine whether and to what extent the respective federal
      agencies, including program officials and Offices of Inspector General, have
      heightened program monitoring and oversight in light of the corruption. To
      respond to your request, we interviewed program and Inspector General officials
      from six federal agencies that provided about 95 percent of federal funds to
      Bridgeport in fiscal year 2002 to identify their general monitoring and oversight
      mechanisms as well as any monitoring activities specific to Bridgeport.1 We also
      obtained and reviewed annual Single Audit Act audit reports for Bridgeport for
      fiscal years 1998 through 2002, as well as agency and Inspector General audit and
      monitoring reports on federally funded programs in Bridgeport.2 In addition, we
      reviewed the indictment and verdict and met with officials from the Federal
      Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding the corruption investigation. We
      performed our work between June and October 2003 in accordance with generally
      accepted government auditing standards.
      1
        The six federal agencies are the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of
      Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Transportation.
      2
        The Single Audit Act (31 U.S.C. 7501 et seq) requires state and local governments that expend
      more than a threshold amount in a fiscal year to have either a single audit or a program-specific
      audit conducted and to forward the audit report to the Federal Audit Clearinghouse for
      distribution to each federal agency responsible for programs for which the audit report identifies a
      finding.


                                                                   GAO-04-230R Bridgeport, Connecticut
Results in Brief

The six federal agencies that provided funds to Bridgeport generally have not
heightened monitoring and oversight activities in response to the Bridgeport
corruption, but rather have continued to oversee program funding through
routine, generally risk-based monitoring and oversight activities. These activities
include the review of Single Audit Act audit reports and other reports required of
fund recipients, comprehensive program reviews, field visits to grantees, and
assessments of state oversight in cases where federal funds are provided to
localities through states. In recent years, these types of monitoring and oversight
activities in Bridgeport have not revealed misuse of federal funds. Further,
according to a senior FBI agent who participated in the Bridgeport corruption
investigation, the FBI did not identify any internal control weaknesses on the part
of federal agencies as the basis for the corruption and concluded that the
corruption was caused by corrupt individuals in the local area.

Background

During 2002, the federal government provided Bridgeport with more than $82
million in funding. Six federal agencies provided about 95 percent of federal
funds to the city. The Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Education, Housing
and Urban Development (HUD), Justice (DOJ), and Transportation (DOT), as well
as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded these funds for over 20
different programs. For example, HUD provided funds to Bridgeport for its
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and affordable housing programs;
DOJ awarded funds for its Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)
program; and DOT provided funds through the Federal Transit Administration
(FTA) for the development of the Bridgeport Intermodal Transportation Center.
See enclosure I for information about each of the federal programs that provided
funds to Bridgeport.

Funding for these programs does not always go directly to the city, and much of it
flows through the states, which have responsibility for passing it to the local level.
For example, USDA reimburses the states for its child nutrition programs, and the
states, in turn, reimburse schools at the local level. Also, not all programs identify
the city as the recipient of the grants. For example, the Bridgeport Housing
Authority is an entity separate from the city of Bridgeport, and HUD’s Public
Housing program funds do not flow through the city but go directly to the Housing
Authority.

Federal agencies use a variety of mechanisms to support their monitoring and
oversight activities. The Single Audit Act is intended to, among other things,
promote sound financial management, including effective internal controls, with
respect to federal awards administered by state and local governments and
nonprofit organizations. Under OMB Circular A-133, Audits of States, Local
Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations, those entities that spend $300,000
or more in federal awards during the fiscal year are required to have a single or


Page 2                                             GAO-04-23OR Bridgeport, Connecticut
program-specific audit conducted for that year.3 The circular also notes that the
entities are required to (1) maintain internal controls for federal programs, (2)
comply with laws, regulations, and the provisions of contracts or grant
agreements, (3) prepare appropriate financial statements, (4) ensure that the
required single audits are properly performed and submitted when due, and (5)
follow up and take corrective actions on audit findings. In addition to reviewing
Single Audit Act audit reports, agencies may visit grantee sites, conduct risk-based
grant reviews of local program operations, review national program operations,
assess monitoring efforts at the state level, and/or conduct investigations and
reviews initiated through fraud hotlines and other complaints or leads. High
funding levels, inexperienced grantees, grantees with a history of performance
problems, and a variety of other factors, including known instances of corruption,
are elements of risk that might lead to increased scrutiny through risk-based
approaches.

Federal Agencies Have Not Heightened Monitoring and Oversight
Activities in Response to Corruption

In general, federal agencies have not heightened monitoring and oversight
activities in light of the Bridgeport corruption. Rather, agencies continue to
monitor program funding as they have in the past, as part of routine, risk-based
monitoring and oversight. This type of monitoring and oversight in Bridgeport in
recent years has not revealed misuse of federal funds. Further, the corruption
investigation did not identify weaknesses in federal controls.

Agencies Have Continued to Conduct Routine, Risk-Based Monitoring and
Oversight

While federal agencies have not heightened monitoring and oversight activities in
light of the Bridgeport corruption, several risk-based grant reviews of Bridgeport’s
program operations have been conducted in recent years, particularly by HUD.
However, according to HUD officials, without a lead or information from a
concerned citizen or whistle-blower, routine risk-based reviews would not
necessarily identify the kinds of fraud that occurred as part of the Bridgeport
corruption, even if it had involved federal funds.

• 	 In August 2000, HUD’s Connecticut State Office reviewed Bridgeport’s CDBG
    and Emergency Shelter Grant programs. The city of Bridgeport was found to
    be in compliance with the financial administrative and record-keeping
    requirements applicable to HUD-funded grants. HUD raised only one concern,
    observing that eight storm doors called for in rehabilitation specifications had
    not been installed.


3
 In the June 27, 2003, Federal Register, OMB issued final revisions to Circular A-133 that raise the
threshold for coverage from $300,000 to $500,000 in annual federal spending. These revisions
generally apply to fiscal years ending after December 31, 2003.


Page 3                                                      GAO-04-23OR Bridgeport, Connecticut
• 	 In May 2002, HUD’s Connecticut State Office reviewed Bridgeport’s Housing
    Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program. The program was
    found to be in compliance in all the regulatory and performance areas that
    were monitored. For example, all individuals met HUD’s definition of
    homeless prior to acceptance into the program, case files were well organized,
    and units appeared to be clean and adequately maintained.

• 	 In May 2002, HUD’s Connecticut State Office reviewed Bridgeport’s CDBG
    program. The review found that assisted entities had provided public service
    benefits, that performance reports and financial documentation appeared to
    be accurate and timely, and that selected activities were found to be eligible.
    This review also found that Bridgeport had not collected and submitted
    interest earned on two revolving loan accounts for rehabilitation and other
    activities and that there was a lack of progress with regard to the
    implementation of some CDBG rehabilitation activities.

In addition, the following reviews were initiated as a result of leads external to
HUD’s Inspector General. HUD’s Inspector General might not have conducted
this work without the leads. For example:

• 	 In 2000, in response to a citizen’s complaint, HUD’s Inspector General
    examined the Bridgeport Housing Authority and concluded that it was not
    operated in an efficient, effective, and economical manner and did not always
    comply with HUD regulations—including a failure to meet the time schedule
    on a court-ordered directive to replace 1,063 low-income housing units.
    According to HUD officials, most of the concerns identified in the Inspector
    General’s Bridgeport Housing Authority report have been or are being
    addressed.

• 	 In May 2003, partly based on information from HUD’s Connecticut State Office
    that Bridgeport’s HOME Investment Partnership program was suffering from
    poor management, HUD’s Inspector General reported on Bridgeport’s HOME
    program, finding that the city could not provide adequate support for $989,929
    in HOME program funds.

In addition to HUD, other federal agencies have reviewed Bridgeport’s program
operations:

• 	 DOT hires engineering firms to perform project management oversight,
    including oversight of the development of the Bridgeport Intermodal
    Transportation Center. This oversight includes periodic site visits and the
    review of monthly reports. DOT has been monitoring this project since its
    inception in 1999.

• 	 As part of the Bridgeport corruption investigation, DOT’s Inspector General,
    working with the FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Defense Criminal
    Investigative Service, and FTA, investigated $104,000 in DOT grant funds used


Page 4                                             GAO-04-23OR Bridgeport, Connecticut
   for the removal and disposal of contaminated soil, allegedly from the
   construction site of a municipal hockey arena, parking garage, and the
   Intermodal Transportation Center. The soil was actually from sites in
   Norwalk, Connecticut, and New York City. The parties charged in this
   investigation have pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $104,000 in restitution.

• 	 In commenting on our draft report, DOT noted that when the Greater
    Bridgeport Transit District was chosen to be the grantee for Bridgeport’s
    Intermodal Transportation Center, FTA initiated a review of an architecture
    and engineering procurement under this grant. FTA found that the
    appropriate procurement procedures had not been followed, and the review
    resulted in the cancellation of the procurement. In addition, after
    collaboration between the Connecticut Department of Transportation and
    FTA, the city of Bridgeport was chosen to be the new grantee. The Greater
    Bridgeport Transit District was subsequently dissolved and the Greater
    Bridgeport Transit Authority was established.

• 	 DOJ’s Inspector General reviewed Bridgeport’s COPS program in 2000 based
    on routine risk-based audit plans and found that the city generally performed
    at an acceptable level but had failed to submit some monitoring reports and
    had submitted many other reports late.

• 	 In light of the corruption, DOJ’s Weed and Seed Program changed the grant
    manager fiscal agent from the city of Bridgeport to the Office of Law
    Enforcement (the police department).

The Bridgeport Investigation Did Not Identify Weaknesses in Federal Controls

As part of its Bridgeport investigation, the FBI contacted officials from HUD,
DOT, and EPA but did not identify any internal control weaknesses on the part of
federal agencies, concluding that the Bridgeport corruption was not a result of
poor internal controls. Instead, the FBI reported that the corruption was a result
of some corrupt individuals in the local area. According to the FBI, fraud was
committed, but there was no indication that the fraud was a result of a lack of
proper internal controls at the federal level.

In addition, the indictment resulting from the investigation did not refer to any
misuse of federal funds. Rather, it stated that the mayor and others committed
illegal acts, a few of which were associated with projects that had received some
federal funding in the past. For example, the indictment charged the following:

• 	 The mayor and his associates wrongfully collected a payment from a private
    company in exchange for awarding the company a contract to operate and
    manage Bridgeport’s waste water treatment facilities. (This charge resulted in
    a “guilty” verdict.) According to EPA officials, this facility was constructed in
    the 1970s or 1980s with financial assistance from EPA.



Page 5                                            GAO-04-23OR Bridgeport, Connecticut
• 	 The mayor agreed to select a specific private company to develop vacant
    tracts of land in Bridgeport, including the site of the former Father Panik
    Village public housing complex, in return for payments to be made from the
    company when the land was developed. (This charge resulted in a “guilty”
    verdict.) In 1990, the Bridgeport Housing Authority was directed by the United
    States District Court of Connecticut to replace all units demolished in the
    Father Panik Village public housing complex; HUD provided $89 million for
    this replacement.4

• 	 The mayor and his associates solicited and agreed to accept money and other
    items for awarding contracts to private companies for the design and
    construction of a minor league baseball stadium and hockey arena. (This
    charge was dismissed.) Prior to construction, in 1998, EPA provided $200,000
    in Brownfields program funds to assess the extent of soil and water
    contamination on this site. Also, DOT provided over $5 million to help
    construct the site’s parking garage, which is also used for Bridgeport’s
    Intermodal Transportation Center.5

Agency Comments

We provided a draft of this report to USDA, Education, EPA, HUD, DOJ, and DOT
for their review and comment. These agencies generally agreed with our findings.
They provided some additional information on their monitoring activities in
Bridgeport as well as some technical comments that are reflected in the letter as
appropriate.

EPA noted that it has recently completed a 2-day desk review of Bridgeport’s
Brownfields grant. This review was conducted after our draft was sent to
agencies for comment.

In addition, DOT noted that, in light of the corruption, FTA has scheduled a
financial management oversight review of Bridgeport to provide assurance that
new accounting procedures implemented by the city will provide the necessary
control over federal transportation funds.




4
  When first built, Father Panik Village had a total of 1,239 units within 46 buildings on a 40-acre
tract on the east side of Bridgeport. Two buildings were later torn down, reducing the overall
facility to 1,063 units. In the 1970s, the complex began to fall into disrepair, and in the 1980s
became known as one of the nation’s most poorly managed public housing facilities. Residents
complained about the conditions at the complex and filed suit against HUD and the Bridgeport
Housing Authority. A settlement was negotiated in 1990, and Father Panik Village was to be totally
demolished and replaced by 818 units of new housing around the city, plus an additional 245
project-based Section 8 units. (Section 8 allows very low-income families to choose and lease or
purchase safe, decent, and affordable privately owned housing.)
5
  As noted previously, the DOT Inspector General concluded that $104,000 of this amount was used
fraudulently, and the agency has taken steps to retrieve the funds.


Page 6                                                     GAO-04-23OR Bridgeport, Connecticut
We are sending copies of this report to the Secretaries of USDA, Education, HUD,
DOJ, and DOT, and to the Administrator of EPA. The report is also available at no
cost on GAO’s Web site at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have any questions, please contact me at (202) 512-6878 or at
woodd@gao.gov. Major contributors to this report were Andy Finkel and Eric
Diamant.




David G. Wood
Director, Financial Markets and
 Community Investment

Enclosure




Page 7                                            GAO-04-23OR Bridgeport, Connecticut
   Enclosure I


     Use of Funds Provided by Six Federal Agencies in Bridgeport, Connecticut
                                  (by fiscal year)

Total Federal Awards Expended in                                               1998     1999     2000        2001      2002
Bridgeport, Connecticut
                                                                                                                          a
(dollars in millions)                                                         $69.22   $73.06   $92.20      $82.32   $82.35
Department of Agriculture
Program               Purpose                                                  1998     1999     2000        2001      2002
National School       Assist states, through cash grants and food
Lunch Program         donations, in making the school lunch program
                      available to schoolchildren and to encourage the
                      domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural
                      commodities.                                              4.61     4.30     5.93        6.19     6.78
School Breakfast Assist states, through cash grants and food
Program               donations, in providing a nutritious nonprofit
                      breakfast service for schoolchildren.                     1.04     1.04     1.32        1.26     1.50
Summer Food           Assist states in conducting nonprofit food service
Service Program       programs for low-income children during summer
for Children          months and at other approved times, when schools
                      are out of session or closed for vacation.                0.49     0.48     0.52        0.50     0.44
Special               Help states provide to low-income pregnant,
Supplemental          breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and
Nutrition             children up to age five, determined to be at
Program for           nutritional risk, at no cost, supplemental nutritious
Women, Infants,       foods, nutrition education, and referrals to health
and Children          care providers.
(WIC)                                                                           0.81     0.76     0.74        0.74     0.75
Other Agriculture
programs                                                                        0.49     0.49     0.47        0.53     0.58
               b
Food Stamps           Improve diets of low-income households by
                      increasing their food purchasing ability.                   --      1.9      2.2         2.3      2.5
Department of Education
Title I Grants to     Help local education agencies and schools improve
Local Education       the teaching and learning of children failing, or
Agencies              most at-risk of failing, to meet challenging state
                      academic standards.                                       8.71     9.87    11.10        9.88    11.75
21st Century          Enable rural and inner city public elementary and
Community             secondary schools to plan, implement, or expand
Learning Centers projects that benefit the educational, health, social
                      service, cultural, and recreational needs of their
                      communities.                                                0      0.63     1.70        3.28     4.23
Other Education
programs                                                                        3.64     4.16     4.58        6.19     7.98
Environmental Protection Agency
Brownfields           Empower states, communities, and other
Pilots/Grants and stakeholders in economic redevelopment to
Demonstrationsc       prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably
                      reuse brownfields (sites that have actual or
                      perceived contamination and a potential for
                      redevelopment or reuse). (Bridgeport’s Brownfield
                      grants generally are for environmental assessment
                      activities.)                                              0.20       0        0         0.20        0
Other EPA
programs                                                                          0        0        0           0      0.03




   Page 8                                                             GAO-04-23OR Bridgeport, Connecticut
   Enclosure I

Department of Housing and Urban Development
Community         Develop viable urban communities by providing
Development       decent housing, a suitable living environment, and
Block Grants      expanding economic opportunities, principally for
                  persons of low and moderate income. Each activity
                  funded must benefit low- and moderate-income
                  families, aid in the prevention or elimination of
                  slums or blight, or meet other community
                  development needs having a particular urgency
                  because existing conditions pose a serious and
                  immediate threat to the health or welfare of the
                  community where other financial resources are not
                  available.                                               6.01     4.64     6.79        5.89    5.65
HOME              Expand the supply of affordable housing,
Investment        particularly rental housing, for low- and very low­
Partnership       income Americans; strengthen the abilities of and
                  local governments to design and implement
                  strategies for achieving adequate supplies of
                  decent, affordable housing; provide financial and
                  technical assistance to participating jurisdictions;
                  extend and strengthen partnerships among all
                  levels of government and the private sector in the
                  production and operation of affordable housing.          2.07     0.99     0.88        1.50    1.33
Emergency         Improve the quality of emergency shelters and
Shelter Grants    transitional housing for the homeless, make
                  available additional shelters, meet the costs of
                  operating shelters, provide essential social services
                  to homeless individuals, and help prevent
                  homelessness.                                            0.11     0.13     0.22        0.12    0.10
Housing           Provide states and localities with resources and
Opportunities for incentives to devise long-term comprehensive
People with AIDS strategies for meeting the housing needs of
                  persons with AIDS, or related diseases, and their
                  families.                                                  0      0.12     0.37        0.50    0.45
Other HUD
programs                                                                   2.64     3.73     4.78        6.51    0.73
Public Housing    Provide and operate cost-effective, decent, safe
programs          and affordable dwellings for lower income families
(Bridgeport       through an authorized local public housing agency.
Housing
Authority)                                                                33.14    33.54    29.31       32.53   32.13d
Department of Justice
Local Law         Help units of local government reduce crime and
Enforcement       improve public safety. Funds may be used for one
Block Grant       or more of seven program purpose areas.                  0.17     0.36     0.65        0.33    0.15
Community         Help to increase police presence and improve
Oriented Policing cooperative efforts between law enforcement
Services (COPS) agencies and members of the community, expand
                  community policing efforts through the use of
                  technology and other innovative strategies,
                  increase security and reduce violence in schools,
                  address crime and disorder problems, and
                  otherwise enhance public safety.                         0.90     2.25     1.40        0.38    0.36
Safe Start        Prevent and reduce the impact of family and
                  community violence on young children (primarily
                  from birth to six years of age) by helping
                  communities to expand existing partnerships
                  between service providers (such as law
                  enforcement, mental health, health, early childhood
                  education, and others) to create a comprehensive
                  service delivery system.                                   0         0        0        0.24    0.30



   Page 9                                                         GAO-04-23OR Bridgeport, Connecticut
   Enclosure I

Executive Office            Combat violent crime, drug use, and gang activity
for Weed and                in high-crime neighborhoods. “Weed out” violence
Seed                        and drug activity in high-crime neighborhoods and
                            then “seed” the sites with a range of crime and
                            drug prevention programs, human service
                            resources, and neighborhood restoration activities
                            to prevent crime from recurring.                                                      0.14             0.15            0.03            0.07   0.04
Other Justice
programs                                                                                                          0.18             0.29            0.37            0.52   0.29
Department of Transportation
Federal Aid       Assist state transportation agencies in planning
Highway           and developing an integrated, interconnected
Program           transportation system important to interstate
(through the      commerce and travel by constructing and
Federal Highway rehabilitating the National Highway System,
Administration)   improve all public roads except those functionally
                  classified as local, provide aid for the repair of
                  federal-aid roads following disasters, foster safe
                  highway design, and replace or rehabilitate
                  deficient or obsolete bridges.                                                                  1.72             0.56            0.45            0.21   0.01
Bridgeport        Improve the speed and ease of transfer between
Intermodal        transportation modes in downtown Bridgeport by
Transportation    colocating facilities and providing seamless
Center (through   connections where possible, and support economic
the Federal       development and land use initiatives in the city.
Transit
Administration)e                                                                                                      0            0.99          15.62               0    1.85
Airport           Assist sponsors, owners, or operators of public-use
Improvement       airports in the development of a nationwide system
Program           of airports adequate to meet the needs of civil
(through the      aeronautics.
Federal Aviation
Administration)                                                                                                   0.55             0.05            0.05            0.10     0
   Source: GAO analysis of data from Single Audit Act audit reports, Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, and agency program and Inspector General officials.


   Note: These tables present federal awards expended in Bridgeport as reported in Single Audit Act audit reports and reflect
   funding provided by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Housing and Urban
   Development, Justice, and Transportation. (The Departments of Commerce, Interior, Labor, Health and Human Services, and
   Treasury, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Corporation for National Community Service, also
   provide funds to Bridgeport. These agencies provided approximately $2.4 million to Bridgeport in 2002, or about 5 percent of the
   total federal funds that were provided to Bridgeport in that year.)
   a
   The total for 2002 includes an approximation for funds provided to the Bridgeport Housing Authority using the average funds
   provided from 1998 through 2001.
   b
       Food Stamp Program funding as reported by the Department of Agriculture.
   c
       Brownfields Pilots/Grants and Demonstrations funding as reported by the Environmental Protection Agency.
   d
    The figure for 2002 is an approximation for funds provided to the Bridgeport Housing Authority using the average funds
   provided from 1998 through 2001.
   e
    Intermodal Transportation Center funding as reported by the Department of Transportation. In 2003, DOT provided an
   additional $8 million in grant funds for the final design and construction of the Bridgeport Intermodal Center’s bus terminal.




   (250147) 



   Page 10                                                                                         GAO-04-23OR Bridgeport, Connecticut
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