May 6, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — Today, Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has begun investigating concerns raised about financial mismanagement at the Omaha Housing Authority. Nelson re-emphasized a request he made for a federal audit of OHA’s books.
Today, Nelson received assurances from Derrith Watchman-Moore, HUD regional administrator in Kansas City, that concerns about the Omaha Housing Authority are being investigated, and last night Nelson received a written response from HUD in Washington.
“It’s well known that the Omaha Housing Authority has been experiencing some financial turmoil and there are concerns that federal funds may have been misused,” Nelson said. “Beyond that, I have heard concerns about OHA’s management of additional federal funds, bringing the total to more than $5 million.
“OHA plays an important role in the well-being of many Omahans’ lives and taxpayers deserve to know that its funds are used as intended. Anything less cannot be tolerated. I’m calling on HUD to conduct an audit for the benefit of those served by the Housing Authority and taxpayers.
“At every level of government, budgets are stretched thin. Every organization must use taxpayer dollars efficiently and every organization must be held accountable.”
On April 5, 2011, Nelson wrote to Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan to let him know members of the OHA Board had informed Nelson of concerns about how millions of federal dollars have been used at the OHA, putting in jeopardy funding from HUD for important housing initiatives, and Nelson requested HUD fully investigate the matter.
“It has been brought to my attention by members of the Board that substantial amounts of money cannot be accounted for at the Omaha Housing Authority,” Nelson wrote to Donovan. “I am requesting that HUD conduct a complete and thorough audit of the Omaha Housing Authority. I want HUD to be sure that all dollars are accounted for.”
On May 5, Nelson received a response for HUD addressing concerns he raised and explaining that investigations have already begun.
“This is a good start. I continue to believe that a federal audit of OHA’s financial records would help get OHA back on sound financial footing,” Nelson said.
OHA contracts with HUD to provide low- and moderate-income individuals with housing through rent subsidies. OHA administers more than 7,200 housing units in Omaha.
“No agency or business can restore stability and regain integrity without its financial systems in order,” Nelson said in his letter to Donovan. “Time is of the essence, and the OHA residents and the several hundred applicants waiting for housing deserve to be managed by a thriving and accountable housing authority.”
Full text of Nelson’s letter to Donovan is below.
April 5, 2011
The Honorable Shaun Donovan
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20410-0002
Dear Secretary Donovan:
It has been brought to my attention by members of the Board that substantial amounts of money cannot be accounted for at the Omaha Housing Authority (OHA). The Regional U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has requested reimbursement of $1.2 million of unauthorized Section 8 monies that were improperly used for operations. In addition, OHA cannot account for $2.5 million in the Homes In Omaha (HIO) Program, as well as, the possible misuse of $1.5 million of restricted funds from the Public Housing account. Also, HIO properties have not received recertification in 41 months, and financial documentation and reporting submittals to the Board and HUD have been incomplete for some time.
Members of the OHA Board have requested my assistance in resolving this matter. Therefore, before OHA begins the reimbursement of the $1.2 million, I am requesting that HUD conduct a complete and thorough audit of the Omaha Housing Authority. I want HUD to be sure that all dollars are accounted for, in order to prevent piecemeal charges of impropriety and mandates for additional reimbursements in the future. No agency or business can restore stability and regain integrity without its financial systems in order. I applaud the OHA Board for taking the necessary steps to begin review of its organizational operations. It is vitally important that the OHA Board and the new director work from a clean slate.
I would appreciate your swift action in this matter. Time is of the essence, and the OHA residents and the several hundred applicants waiting for housing deserve to be managed by a thriving and accountable housing authority.
E. Benjamin Nelson
United States Senator