HUD visit reveals 9 findings, 2 concerns with Hub City entitlement programs

HUD visit reveals 9 findings, 2 concerns with Hub City entitlement programs

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The City of Hattiesburg received a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development that highlighted a few issues and findings pertaining to entitlement programs.

The report, which was based on an on-site visit from August 29-31, 2017, discovered nine findings and two concerns for overall management of the HOME Investment Partnership program and financial management of the Community Development Block Grant program.

"They touch on a variety of issues, some things had to do with documentation," said Hattiesburg's Director of Urban Development, Andrew Ellard. "Maybe a case file that had a missing piece of documentation that we need to follow up on, maybe a case file that had some conflicting information in it, and we need to clarify that and that's what I found most of it to be, was just clarifying information."

On the heels of those findings and concerns, Mayor Toby Barker drafted a letter asking for a "thorough review by the HUD Office of the Inspector General."

"Given recent history of the program and staff changes that have taken place in the last couple of months, though we have full faith in the mission and intention of the administration and staff that precede us, we would appreciate a thorough review to evaluate possible deficiencies in all program areas and processes. Please consider this a formal request for a thorough review by the HUD Office of the Inspector General."

"We want to know everything that we are doing right, and things we need to improve on in every facet of our programs," Barker said. "And so inviting them in to come in and take a look, I think is a good step, so we know where we are and know where we need to go."

The scope of the review details that "the unit which HUD's formula funds are housed has undergone significant restructuring since the July 2017 inauguration of Mayor Toby Barker. Although there has been significant change in the organizational structure, as well as division leadership, much of the staff overseeing the day-to-day operations of the CDBG and HOME funds remain in place."

The report determined that there are several areas in which the city should review its processes and procedures to ensure required compliance actions are implemented and compliance can be determined based upon documentation retained in beneficiary and program files. As a result, there were nine findings and two concerns discovered.

Hattiesburg Chief Administrative Officer Ann Jones said the city's new administration is looking to eliminate the issues from the federal funded programs.

"With recent history of HUD programs, with staff changes, this is just another instance of trying to assess the program as to where it's at now, and if there needs to be corrective actions, make those changes," said Jones.

Ellard said the inspection from HUD was routine, and it's something that isn't uncommon.

"Each year, HUD is going to look at our program and any of their grantees, be at a desk review or an onsite monitoring visit, and look at certain areas of the program, and that's what this was, it was a look at a couple of different areas, one within CDBG and one within the HOME Grant program," Ellard said. "This is kind of par for the course, there's going to be some things we can improve on, some things that they found that we need provide some follow up documentation about, and we will be doing that over the next weeks."

"All of our federal programs are incredibly important to our city and residents," Barker said. "While we have full faith in the integrity and work ethic of those who have worked there before, we think it's important as we just starting out to try and make sure we're aware of all issues that may exist in terms of past compliance and current compliance with federal and state programs."