Friday, February 22, 2008

five hundred invoices ...

So I re-watched the KDKA report about Matt Hogue’s allegations against the Housing Authority. One concern, obviously, is that Matt kept electronic copies of invoices. The fact that he did so for whistle blowing purposes is a point in his favor, but the fact that he went to a news organization instead of the city, county or state is a concern. Still, going to a news agency ensured no Enron-like shredding of documents and wiping of hard drives and backups.

I took some notes while watching, but I realize that didn’t make much sense. There are apparently some 500 to 700 invoices in Matt’s stack. Still, during the broadcast there were a few interesting highlights, like spending 45,000 for a band at a Housing Authority reception? Detailing a car, and apparently being invoiced twice in one day for that one car? Spending just under 2 grand for Housing Authority lapel pins. Now, I noticed that the quantity for the lapel pins on the invoice was 1,000, so you can’t say the price was inflated. But you might ask why the Housing Authority needs a thousand lapel pins.

Matt and a Housing Authority resident mentions how a lot of repairs aren’t being made, and that HACP complains it doesn’t have the money or manpower to make repairs. Well, I glanced at a PG story or two on the HACP and at the HACP’s budget report on the HACP website. The budget, by the way, is described as back in the black (it was apparently in the red for some time period). The HACP maintains it has cut spending by “closely monitoring contract expenditures, reducing housing assistance expenditures within the Housing Choice Voucher Program and eliminating vacant positions whenever possible”. So any maintenance positions that had not been filled were eliminated, and that salary money, which was budgeted last year, was not spent. Except as the Authority saw it was saving money and going to come in under budget, some managers in the Authority may have approved expenses they might have nixed in the past. Remember, the entire Authority police force went to the city police, but I am assuming the Authority is only contributing a fraction of their former salaries.

Then there is the part about how the Authority is raising the rent it charges and saying it will force some residents into the regular housing market. Given the possibility some Authority employees are treating themselves to expensive toys, that now seems fairly obnoxious. I will say I fear the city has set the standard, and this sort of thing could be happening all across city government. Grown-ups need to step in.

So who polices the Authority? The city, who appoints the board? The State? The Feds? Whomever, they need to have their accounting practices reviewed and revised right quick. And not by Pat Ford, some professionals need to step in.


Matt H said...

New video from the Mayor on the topic.

HUD needs to get involved in this. I will be contacting them this week.

I never kept electronic copies of anything though.

No one I know at HACP ever had a HACP lapel pin.

EdHeath said...

Well, as far as elelctronic copies go, in the story you apeared to be looking at an invoice on a computer screen. My bad.

The choice of who looks at the Authority records will be crucial. Unless a group which can be seen as independent, such as HUD (like you mentioned), does the review/audit, the results will be suspect. Any independent accounting firm would probably work, although they too would cost money. But if/when HUD gets involved, there might be sanctions against the HACP or the city.

There's a thousand lapel pins somewhere over at the Authority. Maybe you and 999 Public Housing residents should demand a pin.

Matt H said...

That was just a generic shot of me at my home computer.

I am going to call for a federal HUD investigation into this matter.