HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -The Hub City’s possible repayment of half a million dollars comes after HUD requested that the office of Inspector General look into the city’s administration of federal money from the Home Improvement Partnership Program over a 5-year-period.
The Office of Inspector General concluded that about $506,000 were mishandled, misallocated, or undistributed by the city.
That total amount includes $441,000 in unsupported cost, expenses submitted without adequate documentation or paperwork, $33,258 in illegal costs, expenses not covered under the program’s guidelines and $32,019 in funds to be put to better use, funds that the city received but have remained unallocated for whatever reason.
WDAM spoke to the city’s director of Urban Development to gain more clarity about the possible repayment. He explained where the discrepancies come from.
“Some of the issues came down to human error in processing paperwork," said Andrew Ellard, Hattiesburg’s director of Urban Development. "Some of the issues that they brought up were ultimately documentation that was lost as a result of the 2017 tornado.”
Aside from documents that are unaccounted for due to the tornado, Ellard said the language on both sides could have been misinterpreted.
“We believe we just have a difference in interpretation as compared with O-I-G on some of the policies and procedures they identity that they believe to be in error," said Ellard.
The city though is looking to meet with the department to make its case and find out what will be expected going forward.
“Here, where this goes, what this means is we’re going to continue to work with HUD," Ellard said. "From the OIG they had this off to our state field office which is in Jackson and we’ll begin working with them as soon as possible.”
Until that point city officials can only vaguely predict possible outcomes.
“It could mean a portion of funds being literally paid back," said Ellard. "It could also mean a portion of our existing allotments from prior years grants being deobligated from us. It’s just still too early to tell. We’re looking forward to working with HUD on that.”