oversight

Hotline Complaint, DeKalb County Housing Authority and Decatur Housing Authority, Decatur, Georgia

Published by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General on 2001-06-05.

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

                                                         U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
                                                         District Office of the Inspector General
                                                         Office of Audit
                                                         Richard B. Russell Federal Building
                                                         75 Spring Street, SW, Room 330
                                                         Atlanta, GA 30303-3388
                                                         (404) 331-3369



June 5, 2001                                                                        Audit Memorandum
                                                                                     No. 2001-AT-1804


MEMORANDUM FOR:                  Boyce Norris, Jr., Director, Office of Public Housing, 4APH


FROM:           Nancy H. Cooper
                District Inspector General for Audit-Southeast/Caribbean, 4AGA

SUBJECT:        Hotline Complaint
                DeKalb County Housing Authority
                Decatur Housing Authority
                Decatur, Georgia

We conducted an audit survey to assess the validity of a complaint alleging mismanagement
of the DeKalb County Housing Authority and the Decatur Housing Authority (DDHA)
located in Decatur, Georgia. The complaint alleged that DDHA management altered Section
8 Management Assessment Program (SEMAP) certifications to improve its performance
score, awarded units to applicants who were not first on DDHA’s waiting lists, allowed a
former employee to occupy office space and use DDHA equipment and supplies without
cost to the former employee, and improperly executed contracts with a contractor whose
brother is a DDHA Division Director with contract oversight responsibility.

                                 METHODOLOGY AND SCOPE

To accomplish the survey objective, we interviewed DDHA management and staff. We
reviewed DDHA’s SEMAP certifications submitted to HUD, controls to assure DDHA
awarded units based on waiting lists, proration of administrative costs to the various
programs, and contracting policies and procedures. To test selections from the waiting list,
we reviewed applicant files for 7 of 17 tenants placed in housing units from June through
August 2000.

The survey covered the period June 1999 through June 2000. We adjusted the period, when
appropriate, to ensure complete development of potential issues. We conducted the survey
from September 2000 through March 2001 in accordance with generally accepted
government auditing standards.

   Visit the Office of Inspector General on the World Wide Web at http://www.hud.gov/oig/oigindex.html




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                                      SUMMARY

Although DDHA was not selecting applicants from its Section 8 waiting lists as envisioned
in the SEMAP performance indicators, we found the SEMAP Certifications DDHA
submitted to HUD were prepared in accordance with HUD’s written and oral instructions.
DDHA did not follow its established controls to assure the integrity of its Public Housing
waiting list selection process, and DDHA did not follow its procurement policy, which
created a conflict of interest in the handling of one contract. We found that the former
employee maintained an office in DDHA’s administration building and had access to
supplies and equipment. We determined, however, the services provided by the employee
were beneficial to DDHA and there were no significant costs charged to the HUD programs.

Attachments:
 1-Findings and Recommendations
 2-Authority Comments
 3-Distribution




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                                                                            Attachment 1

                         FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

       Finding 1 - DDHA Needs To Improve Applicant Selection From Waiting Lists

We reviewed the files of eight applicants who had recently been awarded units. We noted
that DDHA could not justify the awards of two of the eight applicants. We also noted that
DDHA did not follow the controls it established to ensure that the next eligible applicant
was awarded the unit he or she qualified for. Our test of the control forms showed that only
1 of 7 forms was completed correctly and that DDHA could not justify awarding a unit to an
applicant who was 74th on the list. DDHA also could not justify the awarding of a unit to
another tenant who was specifically identified in the complaint. DDHA admitted this tenant
prior to implementing its waiting lists controls.

DDHA management was aware of the allegations in the complaint, including waiting list
deficiencies, and had established new procedures to ensure DDHA documented its public
housing tenant files and awarded units to applicants in the order of their position on the
waiting list. To help in the documentation process, DDHA began keeping copies of waiting
lists as they were updated.

The procedures included completion of a form titled "Applicant File To Site Review Sheet”
for each file. The form was a checklist that listed the required forms needed for each tenant.
The Property Management Coordinator would check each item as he reviewed the file. The
form included a section where the applicant’s position on the waiting list is entered. If the
applicant was not number one on the waiting list an explanation was required.

We reviewed the files of 7 of 17 tenants who had moved in during the period of June 21,
2000 to August 21, 2000. We also reviewed the file of one tenant who had moved on June
22, 1999. The complaint specifically identified the move-in of this tenant.

The seven files included the Applicant File To Site Review Sheet; however, only one of the
review sheets was completed correctly. Although the Property Management Coordinator
signed and approved all the review sheets, six review sheets did not show the applicant’s
position on the waiting list. In some cases, a question mark was entered indicating a
question about the applicant’s position. Those same six files did not document a reason or
justification for the tenant’s selection.

After extensive research, we found that DDHA could justify only six of the seven tenant
selections. The seventh tenant was 74th on the list when he was awarded the unit. We found
nothing in DDHA files and records to justify the award.

DDHA also could not justify the move-in of the tenant specifically identified in the
complaint. In this case, the tenant DDHA selected had been on the waiting list for only




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3 months while at least 5 other applicants had been on the waiting list for over 4 years. The
file included a credit report that showed the tenant owed another landlord back rent.

DDHA said that the tenant was moved in because she qualified for a handicapped unit and
the other applicants did not. DDHA, however, could not show that the other applicants did
not also qualify for a handicapped unit. DDHA could not explain why the tenant was
allowed to move in owing back rent. DDHA could not explain why a second credit report,
requested May 24, 1999, was missing from the file.

Housing Authority Comments1

“…the Authority has added documentation requirements on admissions so that it is,
hopefully, clear to anyone why an applicant other than the first one on the waiting list is
selected…. The Authority will add a component this summer that also does a quality control
sample of new admissions. Additionally, the Authorities have added a half time position
recently to provide more staffing in this area of responsibility. These actions should help
insure that the Authority documents all of its selection/admission actions.

“In summary, the Decatur Housing Authority does not believe that incorrect admissions
occurred, but we acknowledge that the documentation allowed these two admissions, out of
the total sample selected, to be questioned.”

                                 OIG Evaluation of Response

We concur with the actions taken and planned by the Authority.

Recommendation:

1A. Require DDHA to improve its control procedures to ensure that applicants are properly
selected from waiting lists and tenant files are adequately documented to justify tenant
selections.




1
    See Attachment 2 for the Authority’s complete response.
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Finding 2 – The Executive Director Allowed a Conflict of Interest in One Contract

DDHA had renovation work performed on their administration building and a project site
office. An architectural firm with a family relationship (brother) to the Director of
Development and Modernization (DDM) performed the design work for the renovations.
The DDHA Executive Director was aware of the relationship and allowed the DDM to
become directly involved in the contract award and oversight processes. These actions
violated DDHA’s Ethics in Public Contracting, Conflict of Interest provisions of their
Procurement Policy.

On August 10, 1999, the Executive Director met with the architect to discuss miscellaneous
improvements to the administration building and one of the project offices. The Executive
Director asked the architect to submit a proposal to perform design services for the
following:

   •   To design a different entrance to the administration building.
   •   To design the construction of storage space at the administration building.
   •   To design interior improvements at one office.

The Executive Director received an undated proposal from the architectural firm. The firm
proposed the following:

   •   Perform No. 1 for no costs to the authority.
   •   Perform No. 2 for $4,500.
   •   Perform No. 3 for $2,500.

The Executive Director reviewed the proposal and sent it, with a note, to the Deputy
Director and the DDM if the work for item No. 3 could be done for $2,000. The ED
commented that the $4,500 proposal for item No. 2 seemed higher than he imagined it
would be, and requested their advice. The Deputy then asked the DDM to handle and
advise.

On September 22, 1999, the DDM responded to the Deputy saying that “in comparison to
the amount of work involved with 1450 Commerce (project site) at $2,000 and the amount
of work at 325 Swanton Way (administration building), I don’t think that $4,500 is too
much.”

On September 23, 1999, the DDM requested a purchase order and notice to proceed be
prepared to begin the design work on the administration building. The amount of the
purchase order was $4,500. The Deputy Director approved the purchase order.

The architect had not billed for the work done on the administration building at the
completion of our fieldwork; however, the architect had billed for the design work on the
project site. A review of this document shows that the DDM approved the invoice



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for payment and requested it be paid before the end of 1999. There were no other approvals
on the invoice. The invoice was paid by check signed by the Executive Director and
Finance Director.

Section VII, B, of DDHA’s Procurement Policy, Ethics in Public Contracting, Conflict of
Interest, provides that no employee, officer or agent shall participate directly or indirectly in
the selection or in the award or in any decision making in the administration of any contract
if a conflict, real or apparent, would be involved. Such conflict would arise when a financial
or other interest in a firm selected for the award is held by:

      •   An employee, officer, or agent involved in making the award;
      •   His/her relative (… brother…);
      •   His/her partner; or
      •   An organization which employs, is negotiating to employ, or has an arrangement
          concerning prospective employment of any of the above.

If a real or apparent conflict exists, the employee is to report it to his department head, who
will then advise the Executive Director.

A review of the contract and payment documents shows that a real or apparent conflict of
interest, as defined by DDHA Procurement Policy, existed as follows:

      •   By requesting advice from the DDM on the reasonableness of the cost proposal, and
          by allowing the DDM to accept work performed and approve payment of an invoice,
          DDHA allowed the DDM to participate directly in the award and administration of
          the contract with the architectural firm owned by his brother.

Housing Authority Comments1

“Due to the control of the process by the Executive Director, at worst, the DDM was
indirectly involved and no practical effect resulted. However, the Authority is aware of the
importance of appearance in all matters.

“As to the “Recommendation”, the Authority will, if or when it does business with this firm,
make sure that no “real or apparent” conflict exists.”

                                 OIG Evaluation of Response

Before we can accept a management decision on the recommendation, the Authority needs
to state the actions taken or planned to prevent a recurrence of a conflict of interest in
contracting with the architectural firm.




1
    See Attachment 2 for the Authority’s complete response.
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Recommendation:

2A. Require DDHA to cease doing business with the brother’s architectural firm, or
prohibit the DDM from participating in the award, administration and oversight of any
contracts involving his brother’s firm.




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                                                                                                         Attachment 2

                                              Auditee Comment


May 22, 2001

Ms. Nancy H. Cooper
District Inspector General for Audit
Southeast/CaribbeanDepartment of Housing & Urban Development
75 Spring Street SW, Room 330
Atlanta, Georgia 30303

Dear Ms. Cooper:

I have received your draft memorandum and participated in an exit conference at which it was reviewed. The
opportunity to offer these comments is appreciated.

Overall, following a very detailed, thorough audit in which a large percentage of the operations of both the
Decatur and DeKalb Housing Authorities were examined I am pleased that the complaints were not proven and
that the two (2) items found were primarily of a procedural nature. The Authorities’ goal is to have no items
found and we will use this audit to help us accomplish that goal for the future.

I appreciate the acknowledgement in the report of the changes, etc. that we had already implemented prior to
the audit and those we have recently implemented. We continue to try and improve as we go and certainly will
use an exhaustive process such as this one to develop better policies and procedures.

There are a few comments that I would like to offer based upon the “Draft Memorandum” I received. I will not
contest any factual items, but will discuss interpretations, actual results, intent, etc. Those comments are
attached to this letter. I trust after reading this response that it will be clear that all of the issues referred to, in
fact, are not significant, but just isolated instances of procedural issues.

Not withstanding the above, the Authority takes these issues very seriously and will, if not already done,
address our procedures to insure no future questions arise.

Again, this was a long and thorough audit of the two (2) Authorities’ operations and we appreciate your
consideration and inclusion of our comments. I anticipate receiving a copy of the final Memorandum in the
near future.



Sincerely yours,




HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF DECATUR, GA./
HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE COUNTY OF DEKALB, GA.


Paul A. Pierce
Executive Director




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Auditee Comments



                                          RESPONSE TO DRAFT AUDIT

 No. 1 – Public Housing Waiting Lists

       This item notes two (2) admissions in Decatur that were not adequately documented. The Authority
does not dispute that an auditor could not readily tell if these 2 move-ins were justified.

          However, based upon Decatur’s waiting list and housing stock I believe that the admissions were in
accordance with policies. In the instance of the person that was #74; this was for an elderly/disabled upstairs
one bedroom unit. Shortly after this admission the Authority records show there were only 18 elderly and
disabled applicants in Decatur in a waiting list of 1,693, that’s 1 of every 94. Further, only a limited number can
go upstairs and the particular unit in question is actually on the end of the building that is 3 stories tall. With
these circumstances that are known to the Authority on a daily operating basis, I feel comfortable that this was
the proper application to be selected for this unit. However, the Authority did not adequately document that set
of facts.

         Relative to the tenant who moved in June 22, 1999; this person required an accessible unit because
the head of household was in a wheelchair. The Authority’s waiting list for these designated units is normally
fairly short; this application was processed under a supervisor of the Occupancy Division who left the
Authority’s employment in June, 1999; apparently in the transition from this supervisor to the splitting of the
occupancy function back to the programmatic areas some information was lost or misplaced; in August, 1999 I
looked at this application and based upon the information available I felt the selection from the waiting list was
appropriate, but not documented. This, along with the new organizational structure, was the genesis for the
Authority instituting some additional review procedures (acknowledged in the report).

          Relative to the “Recommendation”, the Authority has added documentation requirements on
admissions so that it is, hopefully, clear to anyone why an applicant other than the first one on the waiting list is
selected. For some time, the Authority has done an internal audit of a sampling of public housing
recertifications. The Authority will add a component this summer that also does a quality control sample of new
admissions. Additionally, the Authorities have added a half time position recently to provide more staffing in
this area of responsibility. These actions should help insure that the Authority documents all of its
selection/admission actions.

        In summary, the Decatur Authority does not believe that incorrect admissions occurred, but we
acknowledge that the documentation allowed these two admissions, out of the total sample selected, to be
questioned.




No 2 – Conflict of Interest in one (1) Contract

          As Executive Director, I acknowledge the inadvertent appearance of conflict that could have resulted
in this one (1) instance. However, I question the tone of this item as presented in the Draft Audit. The actual
circumstances do not justify it.


         The Authority has a business relationship with this architectural firm, as it has with others, and that
relationship predates the employee being in the position referenced. In fact, the award process was controlled
by the Executive Director and the Development/Modernization Director only responded to directions from the
Executive Director. The Executive Director solicited the proposals, reviewed them and authorized award to the
architect (which the audit acknowledged).




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Auditee Comments



          During that process the Executive Director asked for a professional opinion of the Development
Modernization Director, as well as the Deputy Director, so he could better understand the scope of work. The
Executive Director then instructed the Development Modernization Director to have a Purchase Order
requested from Finance, the DDM did not initiate the action. This was strictly a request by the Executive
Director to facilitate paperwork

        As to the approval of an invoice, this was an error/oversight that happened in the DDM’s normal course
of work approvals. However, before a check is released it is approved by the Finance Director or the Executive
Director so the DDM’s approval in this one (1) instance was not the final approval. Immediately upon being
notified of this occurrence, instructions were issued that no approvals of similar invoices were to be made by
the DDM or accepted by the Finance Department.

         Due to the control of the process by the Executive Director, at worst, the DDM was indirectly involved
and no practical effect resulted. However, the Authority is aware of the importance of appearance in all
matters.

        As to the “Recommendation”, the Authority will, if or when it does business with this firm, make sure
that no “real or apparent” conflict exists.




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                                                                              Attachment 3
                                      DISTRIBUTION


Decatur/DeKalb County Housing Authorities
Secretary, S
Deputy Secretary, SD (Room 10100)
Chief of Staff, S (Room 10000)
Assistant Secretary for Administration, S (Room 10110)
Acting Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, J (Room
10120)
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Public Affairs, S, (Room 10132)
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administrative Services, Office of the Executive Secretariat,
AX
    (Room 10139)
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Relations,
Acting Deputy Chief of Staff, S (Room 10226)
Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, S (Room 10226)
Deputy Chief of Staff for Programs, S (Room 10226)
Special Counsel to the Secretary, S (Room 10234)
Senior Advisor to the Secretary, S
Special Assistant for Inter-Faith Community Outreach, S (Room 10222)
Executive Officer for Administrative Operations and Management, S (Room 10220)
General Counsel, C (Room 10214)
Assistant Secretary for Housing/Federal Housing Commissioner, H (Room 9100)
Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research, R (Room 8100)
Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, D (Room 7100)
Assistant Deputy Secretary for Field Policy and Management, SDF (Room 7108)
Office of Government National Mortgage Association, T (Room 6100)
Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity, E (Room 5100)
Director, Office of Departmental Equal Employment Opportunity, U
Chief Procurement Officer, N (Room 5184)
Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, P (Room 4100)
Director, Office of Departmental Operations and Coordination, I (Room 2124)
Office of the Chief Financial Officer, F (Room 2202)
Chief Information Officer, Q (Room 3152)
Acting Director, HUD Enforcement Center, V, 1250 Maryland Avenue, SW, Suite 200
Acting Director, Real Estate Assessment Center, X, 1280 Maryland Avenue, SW, Suite 800
Director, Office of Multifamily Assistance Restructuring, Y, 1280 Maryland Avenue, SW,
Suite 4000
Inspector General, G (Room 8256)




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Secretary's Representative, 4AS
Director, Office of Public Housing, 4PH
Audit Liaison Officer, 3AFI
Audit Liaison Officer, Office of Public and Indian Housing, PF (Room P8202)
Departmental Audit Liaison Officer, FM (Room 2206)
Acquisitions Librarian, Library, AS (Room 8141)
Counsel to the IG, GC (Room 8260)
HUD OIG Webmanager-Electronic Format Via Notes Mail (Cliff Jones@hud.gov)
Public Affairs Officer, G (Room 8256)
Stanley Czerwinski, Associate Director, Resources, Community, and Economic Development
   Division, U.S. GAO, 441 G Street N.W., Room 2T23, Washington DC 20548
The Honorable Fred Thompson, Chairman, Committee on Governmental Affairs,
  United States Senate, Washington DC 20510-6250
The Honorable Joseph Lieberman, Ranking Member, Committee on Governmental Affairs,
  United States Senate, Washington DC 20510-6250
The Honorable Dan Burton, Chairman, Committee on Government Reform,
  United States House of Representatives, Washington DC 20515-6143
The Honorable Henry A. Waxman, Ranking Member, Committee on Government Reform,
  United States House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515-4305
Ms. Cindy Fogleman, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Room 212,
  O'Neil House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515-6143
Steve Redburn, Chief, Housing Branch, Office of Management and Budget, 725 17th Street,
NW,
  Room 9226, New Executive Office Bldg., Washington, DC 20503
Sharon Pinkerton, Deputy Staff Director, Counsel, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug
  Policy and Human Resources, B373 Rayburn House Office Bldg., Washington, DC
20515
Armando Falcon, Director, Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, O, 1700 G Street,
NW,
  Room 4011, Washington, DC 20552




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